Popular Creativity Theories

We Have Not Always Been “Creative”

The Greeks and Romans ascribed the source of what we call creativity to a “genius” (Roman) or “daemon” (Greek) linked to the gods. The concept of creativity as we know it did not yet exist and the ancients regarded being “inventive” as an external process. The modern concept of creativity appeared during the Renaissance when, for the first time, Europeans saw creativity not as a gift from a god, but as arising from the abilities of “great men.” However, the shift from divine origins to mortal was gradual and did not become widespread until the Enlightenment.

Graham Wallas, 1920s

English social psychologist Graham Wallas gave us the famous five-stage theory of the creative process. (Image: public domain.)

English mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead coined the term creativity in 1927 while delivering the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh. Almost immediately, it became the word of choice in literature, the arts, and science. In fact, the term went into wide use so quickly, we have forgotten its recent origins in the twentieth century.

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