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I have heard of classes that teach 'creativity'. To me, the whole concept is absurd. I approached a student of the aforementioned class and asked him why he chose to learn creativity. He stated that creativity is a process in which you learn the basics and the rules and then extrapolate it. I argued that real creativity is innate, and it depends on the surroundings of which you are a part.

And then a thought struck me: What if no one is 'naturally' creative? After birth, a baby knows only what he sees. Whatever a person knows has been absorbed from the surroundings in the form of opinions and experiences. On these lines, anybody can be creative, provided he is exposed to the 'correct' stimulus. Ideas and philosophies are personal interpretations of experiences and opinions. It wasn't our creativity as a race that has made us who we are today, but it was actually necessity that propelled our species forward. What else would possibly stimulate our creativity as a race other than our necessity as a species to survive?

In short, after an hour or so of arguments to and fro, my question: Can creativity be taught? I don't mean by giving a kid a crayon and telling him how to draw an apple. I mean creativity at its most absolute form. Can creativity be inherited?

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migrated from philosophy.stackexchange.com Jan 15 '14 at 1:42

This question came from our site for those interested in logical reasoning.

That topic should be studied by Psychology. –  Mikenemite Jan 14 '14 at 1:17
Definitely belongs on psychology/cogsci, not philosophy. –  Rex Kerr Jan 14 '14 at 2:50
@stoicfury: So, Plato in his dialogue Ion, wasn't talking about poesia - to make, fabricate or create? He wasn't talking, in todays argot, about creativity? –  Mozibur Ullah Jan 14 '14 at 5:42
Take a look at this question for a related discussion on critical thinking. –  Artem Kaznatcheev Jan 15 '14 at 4:18
@MoziburUllah Two thousand years ago the collective human knowledge could be grasped by one individual, therefore there was only one scholarly discipline, philosophy. As knowledge grew in volume, specialization became necessary, and disciplines began to branch off of philosophy. Psychology as a separate discipline came into existence during the 19th century. That is why the history of all disciplines, as they exist today, include philosphers like Plato. That Plato (or Aristoteles or any other ancient philosopher) discussed Astronomy, does not make it part of philosophy today. –  what Mar 2 '14 at 9:41

7 Answers 7

The first Google hit for "creativity training psychology" (Chamorro-Premuzic, 2013) seems to answer your question pretty thoroughly. Prof. Chamorro-Premuzic is a pretty formidable psychologist, so it's no surprise coming from him! To quote the post:

In short, creativity is not 100% malleable, but it can be affected by deliberate interventions. People's generic creative potential is more dependent on personality than contextual factors, but domain-specific creativity depends more on acquired expertise and our inspiration to be creative is both dispositional and situational. In simple terms, if you want to be more creative there's a lot you can do to achieve this - the only difficulty is to achieve the same results with people who don't want to be more creative (once again, it is a case of the rich getting richer and...)

Here's one particularly promising way to learn creativity: have other cultures teach you! Psychology Today (Markman, 2010) offers a nice review of a study of multicultural experience and creativity (Maddux, Adam, & Galinsky, 2010) that found creative improvements among travelers abroad. Good excuse for a vacation!


- Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2013, May 18). Training creativity: Can psychology boost our creative potential? Psychology Today: Mr. Personality. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mr-personality/201305/training-creativity-0.
- Maddux, W. W., Adam, H., & Galinsky, A. D. (2010). When in Rome... Learn why the Romans do what they do: How multicultural learning experiences facilitate creativity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36(6), 731–741. Retrieved from http://psp.sagepub.com.uncensor.it/content/36/6/731.full.pdf.
- Markman, A. (2010, June 26). Can living abroad make you more creative? Learning to live in another culture has real benefits. Psychology Today: Ulterior Motives. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ulterior-motives/201006/can-living-abroad-make-you-more-creative.

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Ah! This seems more wholesome, if I may say so. Let me have a look at the website and get back to you. :) –  Artemisia Jan 15 '14 at 11:14
As to the "not 100% malleable, but can be affected" part: I seem to remember from a lecture (but have no source for this) that education can increase intelligence about 10 points (the exact number could be misremembered). So while the larger part of intelligence is hereditary, there is some (significant for the individual!) part that you can do something about. I would expect the same for all other traits, including creativity. –  what Feb 5 '14 at 15:44

I'm afraid I have to disagree with Mozibur Ullah's answer. Instead of talking about Plato, Socrates and Picasso I'll mention one, incredibly creative and intelligent person: John Cleese.

Telling people how to be creative is easy, it's only being it what's difficult.

Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating. Creativity is not an ability you either have, or not have. And it is absolutely unrelated to IQ.

If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play.

The most creative people have this childlike facility to play.

To summarise Cleese's point: creativity is a process that can be taught and learnt. It's about setting up a particular mood that opens up your mind and allows you to think up of things people see as creative. Of course, this process will vary for different people, but there are some key points. For example:

  • silence - you can't be creative when you surround yourself with distractions
  • playfulness - you have to learn to enjoy your mind and thinking of funny, weird things without feeling ashamed or immature.
  • trusted coworkers - gather together a group of people you trust and just throw ideas at each other. It is very important that you trust them.
  • no stress and deadlines - creativity requires time. A lot of it. Of course, you have to finish a project sometime, but if you want to be creative, you need to give yourself as much time as you need.

...and there's more. Please watch the Full lecture if you want to fully understand what I mean (and learn how to be creative).

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But these key points too can vary from person to person. –  Artemisia Jan 14 '14 at 20:44
I doubt anything is "absolutely unrelated" to IQ; least of all the aptitude for original thought! It is not dichotomous, but it is dimensional: some have more than others in published studies that define creativity operationally. –  Nick Stauner Jan 15 '14 at 5:02
@NickStauner "...of course, you have to have some minimal level of intelligence" –  Dunno Jan 15 '14 at 23:24
What are you quoting now? That doesn't appear anywhere else on this page, so please cite! Regardless, that point alone contradicts "absolutely unrelated." One can go much further: since creativity is not dichotomous, why would its relationship with intelligence be? I suspect one could find published evidence of a linear relationship between creativity and intelligence that would contradict a discontinuous model based on a minimal threshold hypothesis. –  Nick Stauner Jan 15 '14 at 23:35
@NickStauner The full lecture I linked in the last paragraph. Please watch it, it's really interesting stuff. –  Dunno Jan 16 '14 at 9:57

"Creativity is an expression of intelligence" - well, there's a bit more to it than that !

It's original thought. An action resulting from inspiration (new idea) or synthesis of existing ideas, which is itself new to the person doing the creating.

How do you think of something original.. If you go with the notion that we're a product of our reactions to our surroundings, then original thought can only come from memories and current circumstance, and thus can be taught/learnt or "induced" as 'Dunno' suggests.

If you believe there's a bit more that's intangible about creativity, an inexplicable spark which provides more possibilities than the surrounding circumstances logically imply, then the intangible nature of that spark probably means it can't be taught, and some people have more innate creativity about them than others.

"Necessity is the mother of invention"- meaning one gets creative when it's required. Why did the UK industrial revolution start with textiles ? Because it's cold here sometimes!

Creativity seems to be an attitude that can be adopted. Some people can / do adopt this generally more than others, some are inspired towards it by their environment, and some people are even made uncomfortable by the notion of trying someting new, so shy away.

I know this because a relative of mine runs creativity courses with good results. So I would say .. can creativity be taught ? Yes, it's an attitude which can be adopted in amny guises but will only be comfortable for the student if their temperement suits it.

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Ah! So you say a class would enhance a person's creativity as long as the person has some inclination towards it? I am referring to that temperament in itself: can that be obtained as wished for? –  Artemisia Jan 14 '14 at 20:42

Creativity is an expression of intelligence. And can intelligence be taught?

Human beings are naturally intelligent in many ways and creativity expresses itself in many ways. Through gesture and through speech. These are the raw materials via which formal artistry is attained.

What can be taught are the skills through which expression is enacted. One cannot be a writer until one has been taught about writing. In todays world of mass literacy that fact is forgotten. Given the immense production of books one needs to know what is worth reading, and why. Hence the development of a canon.

Physics is creative - they create physics. Mathematician are creative - they create mathematics. Being far removed from the world-at-hand it is formal institutions of learning that transmit this body of knowledge and nurtures the conditions in which it flourishes.

Famously Picasso dropped out of the art school in Madrid. But then he knew as well how to paint as his father was a polished painter of pigeons. He went to Paris - then the cultural centre of Europe. He went where the 'scene' was. Artistry requires a body of like-minded souls. It amplifies and makes real the substance of art. This is as true of scholarly work as it is of what is known as the arts today. If one looks at the root meaning of college:

college - late 14c., from Old French college "collegiate body" (14c.), from Latin collegium "community, society, guild," literally "association of collegae" (see colleague).

Braque, the leader of the surrealists, when he arrived in New York said that here there were artists, but no art. Meaning no collegial body of artists linked together by affinity and spirit; or perhaps it was a recognition of American Individualism that divides; or the mimicry of art rather than the art itself.

One can discrern two forms of creativity. The arrangement of what is already at hand put into a new form. And that which breaks new ground. Generally form and sensibility come together fluidly and coherently. One is inhabiting the art and made it ones home. I mean by art - artistry in its most general form - as artisan and craftsman - covering both the sciences and the arts.

Artistry is not only thought but know-how. It is embodied thought. Thought made flesh and concrete. Ones hands work at their own accord so that composition can proceed.

Socrates, so Plato tells us, examined the poet to find out if he understood the nature of poetry; and found that he did not. But a poet does not reflect on the nature of his art, or if he does, only in a cursory and casual way. Thus, this is the mode in which the rhapsode Ion answers Socrates in his eponymous dialogue. Socrates, also in this dialogue call poetry a gift of the gods, of the heavenly muse. Plato, through the figure of Socrates interrogating the poet was interrogating the nature of creativity. Look at the root meaning of poetry:

poet (n.) early 14c., "a poet, a singer" (c.1200 as a surname), from Old French poete (12c., Modern French poète) and directly from Latin poeta "a poet," from Greek poetes "maker, author, poet," variant of poietes, from poein, poiein "to make, create, compose," from PIE *kwoiwo- "making," from root *kwei- "to pile up, build, make" (cf. Sanskrit cinoti "heaping up, piling up," Old Church Slavonic činu "act, deed, order").

Creativity, to Plato displays a divine link. It has an affinity with the gods. One might suppose that Socrates or Plato was admitting that at bottom there is no such link. For who can now, believe in gods. Or the divine. The words are quaint or antiquarian. The word sacred is demode (out of fashion). But Plato, is not the securalised and desacrilised philosopher of today. The Philosophers then moved in a world of thought that inhabited worlds of myth, religion and thought that today are divided strictly. The word philosopher today does not convey what the word philosophy then did. If one cannot take what Plato say seriously, then one should at least take seriously that the words that he made Socrates say were meant seriously.

So, No - creativity cannot be taught because its an expression of the person - soul, personality and intelligence. But it can be enhanced though the conditions that enable it to flourish: the habitus of an art.

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But does this imply that the lack of an external stimulus of sort would actually suppress creativity? –  Artemisia Jan 14 '14 at 8:58
What do you by 'external stimulus'? –  Mozibur Ullah Jan 14 '14 at 9:16
Upbringing, for example. Or exposure to more books for a more vivid imagination; something along these lines. –  Artemisia Jan 14 '14 at 9:17
I guess so - this is what I meant, in at least one sense, by a habitus. –  Mozibur Ullah Jan 14 '14 at 10:11
Instead of opining about various related and unrelated matters, one should look up a study. Creativity is taught, and it produces results: gettingsorted.homestead.com/… –  Rex Kerr Jan 14 '14 at 19:56

Well as such there is no definite set of rules that one can follow and achieve creativity. At the most they might inspire creativity in certain predefined situations after a lot of effort. BUT after all there is a method that can make a person creative. yes , make a person creative and not induce creativity. The methods I am talking about are taught under a programme called purushakar parakaram dhyan sadhna (search this page on facebook). The program consists of SCIENTIFIC techniques of meditation consisting of a simple process that takes less than a 15 mins, to be done any time of the day, any posture, any place. While the meditation was not invented to make people creative as such but then creativity is certainly a byproduct. Let me know if you need more information on this technique. For learning this contact me on raj.bafna1704@gmail.com

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Oops,, my apologies for that. Well, reading my own comments, I think maybe I went a bit too far to compare it with paracetamol but it is scientific nonetheless and very effective. It is being tested on a lot of diseases particularly cancer, diabetes, blood pressure and the results documented. So you can envisage that its scope is actually much broader than creativity. You can search for purushakar parakaram dhyan sadhana page on fb and if you wanna give it a try contact me . To give you a sense of the science behind it, this technique is based on changing the frequency of the innerbody. –  user5359 Feb 3 '14 at 19:50
Innerbody comprises of karma which determines the state of our inner and outer world.. the changes in innerbody with this method are well established through aura scan machines –  user5359 Feb 3 '14 at 19:52
You gotta search facebook for that page where the steps are given. If you are interested you can contact me on the no ending 0833 or message me on fb itself. While im not advertising that website,, but I certainly wish to promote the meditation that iv been practicing and which has helped me immense, I dont see what is so wrong in that... –  user5359 Feb 3 '14 at 20:06
I have heard about this. Let me have a look at it and get back to you. I must admit, meditation does 'improve' creativity, although I am not sure if it is only because one achieves the ability to 'quieten' the mind. –  Artemisia Feb 6 '14 at 10:13
Well quietening the mind can do a lot but not everything,, and certainly agree that it does improve creativity.. but the problem is that it is easier said than done, and thats the usp of the technique im talking about- it is done easily but difficult to explain the hows and whys associated with it. –  user5359 Feb 9 '14 at 7:39

I just realised that I could share something more helpful and so another answer. This is again scientific and I have learnt it from a jain saint teacher in india. Again its scope is far more greater than creativity, but I will stick to it in this answer. There are a lot of studies that talk about the left brain being the creative one and right one being the analytical one. And there have been surgeries whereby the connection between left brain and the right brain was severed to cure sudden brain impulses that brought tremors to the patient when the moved between the two portions. And so both the brains of the patient worked independently and he was able to use both sides of his body independent of the other eg write with both hands. But this also brought many limitations as for most situations in life we need a certain coordination between our brains, where we need both analytical abilities and creativity to arrive at a solution. Till date modern science (as well as alternative medical feilds and philosophers) have not been able to understand this phenomenon, let alone providing a solution to it. The technique im talking about is called swar shastra which involves monitoring and changing the flow of air from our nostrils and by that means controlling which part of the brain shall remain active and which part inactive. If you frequently examine your breathing, you will realise that you seldom breathe using both nostrils. This is because either your right brain is more active, dominant or the left. Some times your creative side is active when you actually need your analytical brain to work or vice versa say when solving a mathematical problem, and you realise that even a seemingly easy problem is taking a significant amount of time and effort to be solved. And no matter how hard you try you just dont seem to move any forward. If you manage to block the active nostril and force breathe from the previously blocked nostril, you will soon realise a shift in your thoughts and the way you feel. This requires training and should be practiced under guidance. You may nevertheless try yourself as it has no side effects. You may contact me for guidance. raj.bafna1704@gmail.com

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Within the research community the generally accepted view today is that aspects of cognitive performance such as what are commonly called "intelligence", "creativity" or "emotional intelligence" are mostly inborn and can be modified both positively and negatively by nutrition, health, a stimulating environment and other factors only to a certain degree.

Intelligence is much better researched, and there are many studies that illustrate how certain interventions affect it, but there has been some research on the effectiveness of creativity training as well. A meta-analysis (Scott, Leritz & Mumford, 2004) found that creativity training has an average effect size of Cohen's d = .68. What does that mean?

Let's illustrate it by looking at intelligence. Most people have an average intelligence, and higher and lower intelligence are increasingly rare. This results in a typical bell shaped distribution of intelligence that shows how many people within a certain population are how intelligent:

enter image description here

As you can see, about 68% of all people are of average intelligence, that is they have an IQ between 85 and 115. The mathematical average (i.e. the mean) intelligence is an IQ of 100. Of course only some people have exactly the mean IQ of 100 and most people deviate from this mean to some degree. To better grasp how far most people deviate from the mean intelligence, a "standard deviation" is calculated. For IQ this standard deviation is 15 IQ points above or below the mean.

When you train intelligence, and you find that the average intelligence of your group of trainees has risen by 15 IQ points (for example from 110 to 125) that is an effect size of 1. If you find an effect size of .68 (as in the meta-analysis on creativity training) this means that your training raised the IQ about two thirds of one standard deviation, which is about 10 IQ points. An intelligence training that was as effective as the average creativity training would increase your intelligence by 10 points.

Now, as far as I know there is no standard scale for creativity similar to the IQ for intelligence, so I cannot translate the effect size into CQ for you, but I hope through my analogy you have an idea of how much you can increase creativity through training.

The effect is certainly noticeable, but you cannot turn an uncreative person into an artist, just as you cannot train a stupid person to win the Nobel prize. You can get better by training, but you need a good basis to start from, if you want to make creativity your job.


  • Scott, G., Leritz, L. E., & Mumford, M. D. (2004). The effectiveness of creativity training: A quantitative review. Creativity Research Journal, 16(4), 361-388.
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So it is the joint play of inborn talent and coaching? –  Artemisia Mar 3 '14 at 17:22
Talent is something else entirely. But yes, creativity, as intelligence, is the result of an interaction between "nature and nurture". –  what Mar 3 '14 at 18:08

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