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Creativity Requires

Creativity requires the use of imagination and or original ideas to create something new and in the case of producing knowledge, creativity can aid in the discovery or creation of new knowledge. From beginning to end, creativity is required to theorize and predict new knowledge but also creates new methods to test knowledge. Imagination and intuition are innate elements of creativity, which “transforms the materials of experience into new forms and meanings” . Creativity cannot exist without these ways of knowing, as it allows humans to make swift and imaginative connections between seemingly unrelated ideas. In both the Human and Natural sciences, creativity is required at every stage, as it allows humans to find new and more expressive ways to explain the vast world that we live in.

Many believe that the Natural Sciences doesn’t involve creativity in the creation of knowledge, as scientists must adhere to a strict methodology and use specific theories to explain their results – but where did these methods and models originate and what role does creativity and imagination play in the production of knowledge in the natural sciences? Albert Einstein said that, “The great scientists are artists as well” , Einstein himself used creativity and imagination to conceptualize knowledge beyond the known when he predicted gravitational waves in 1916, based in his theory of General Relativity, long before there were the means available to test such a theory. The theory explains the behaviour of objects in space and time and how it can be used to predict almost everything from “the existence of black holes, to light bending due to gravity and the behaviour of the planet Mercury in its orbit” . Einstein used his innate creativity and imagination to envisage something that seemed unprovable during this time, as well as other theories and hypothesis that have become the basis from modern Physics. Creativity was also crucial in the creation of the equipment that later would prove Einstein’s theory; the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) required great ingenuity and imagination to create a brand new way to testing for gravitational waves. It was based off the pre-existing models and ideas of interferometry, but used the creativity of its inventors to re-envisage them in such a way that they could create a new way of producing knowledge in the field of the natural sciences. Since 2014 LIGO’s has become a model from extreme engineering and technology and has had a profound impact in the areas of physics and astronomy. Creativity was employed by the inventors of LIGO’s to test Einstein’s theory and further the amount of knowledge that can be produced in the natural sciences.

Not only is creativity used in the grander sense in the Natural Sciences, but also in the sense that scientists are on a ongoing journey, trying to find out as much as they can about the natural world. The concern is not about getting the ‘right answer’ as nobody one hundred percent what the ‘right answer’ is, but its about discovering a question we have not yet found the answers too. Therefore creativity is required in the natural sciences to ‘make up’ new ways to approach questions and make sense of the data that they have collected. For the continued production of knowledge, we need to undertake new ways to explain the phenomena’s of the world around us. The changing of accepted theories requires great creativity, to re-imagine or re-invent pre-conceived ideas. The model for the atom has been rapidly changing since John Dalton first developed atomic theory in the 1800’s. Each change in model has resulted in paradigm shift, which entails a fundamental change in basic concepts and experimental practices. For each new model of the atom, creativity is required to see different the new perspective and therefore creates a whole new set of knowledge related to the model.

A counter-claim for this argument is that much of the knowledge produced in the natural sciences is produced via error and therefore doesn’t require any creativity of behalf of the inventor. This is somewhat true, as many scientific discoveries have been discovered accidently or via ‘error’, however it does take creativity, imagination and intuition to re-imagine this ‘failure’ into a discovery. Penicillin was only discovered when Alexander Fleming returned home from a holiday in Scotland and found that mold called “Penicillin notatum” had contaminated his petri dishes. At first this could have been seen as a ‘mistake’ as what type of scientist would leave petri dishes containing various bacteria whilst on holiday, but Fleming’s intuition made him examine the mold further and consequently find that Penicillin inhibited the growth of bacteria and could be used to combat infectious diseases at a time when there was no readily available treatment for such diseases . This “accidental” discovery required creativity and intuition on Fleming’s behalf, which enabled him to see Penicillin as a life-saving drug rather than a mold, which accidently grew whilst he was on holidays. Whilst knowledge can be produced in the natural sciences through error, it requires creativity and imagination to re-envisage the ‘mistake’ as being the creation of new knowledge.

In the human sciences, especially in Psychology, creativity is a necessity in the production of knowledge. Research methods are extremely important in Psychology, as it allows researchers to prove theories or hypothesizes that they have produced. But the ways in which they can prove said theories requires creativity. Researcher’s must manipulate the already existing research methods or create entirely new methods to best fit their theories or research. Observation is a research method that is often manipulated and altered to produce new ways of testing theories. There are many different types of observation and are often used in combination to produce the most effective method for the research. This is seen in Rosenhan’s 1973 study “Being Sane in Insane places” , where he used a combination of a field experiment and covert observation. In this study, 8 pseudo-patients (who were the observers in the study) were admitted to a psychiatric ward after reporting hearing voices in their head and then made observations during their time in the ward. This method would have used great creativity to think up of as it combined two already recognized research methods. The field experiment aspect allowed for quantitative data to be collected – e.g. the average amount of days before a pseudo-patient was released and the covert observation allowed for the observers to record what they heard and saw. This meant the data collected was richer and in greater depth than possible from a single research method alone. It also made the experimental methodology stronger and reduced the potential limitations for the study. The creativity and imagination used by Rosenhan and his research team has allowed for new ways to collect data that is more detailed, richer and overall more accurate. In the human sciences, new research methods use creativity in their creation, as they are often a combination of various previously existing methods.

An argument against this is that through the combination of already existing methods and knowledge, new knowledge is not being created as they are just ‘building on the shoulders of giants’ and doesn’t require as much creativity as ‘making’ knowledge from scratch. But all knowledge that is created is based off previous knowledge and then expanded upon. This may result in the continuation of an idea or theory, or may result in a complete shift of idea, a paradigm shift, that results in a complete change of thinking. In Psychology, the central ideas and theories are ever changing and are always producing new knowledge, building and changing off previous ideas and models. ‘Building on the shoulders of giants’ requires just as much creativity, as that creativity and imagination is needed to make the connection and links between the previous ideas and modern theories. In terms of new methods to test experimental hypothesis, researchers are combining research methods to maximise the strengths of their experimental method and hopefully reducing the limitations, and by doing so they are creating a whole new way to collect, produce and test knowledge. In Rosenhan’s study they were able to produce more detailed and accurate data that wasn’t affected by demand characteristics. Aristotle’s history of Psychology “Para Psyche” examined the mind, reasoning and thought and many of his proposals still influence modern psychology. He was one of the first to examine the urge to reproduce and how it was seemingly the over-riding impulse for all living things and this is seen in the evolutionary theory of Charles Darwin. His ideas of behaviour and what drive human behaviour are seen in the research and theories of B.F. Skinner and Pavlov, two of the most famous psychological researchers. B.F. Skinner and Pavlov would have employed their creativity and intuition to see the connections between previous theories and their own modern hypothesizes.

Creativity is crucial for the production of knowledge, at every stage, especially in the areas of the Human and Natural Sciences. Creativity allows individuals to make links and connections between pieces of knowledge and make something new out of them. In the creative thinking process, imagination and intuition are imperative, as they the basic human instincts that drive us to create new things. Whether it being the production of knowledge or in the ways of testing and proving pre-existing knowledge, creative thinking furthers the creation of knowledge in every area of knowledge. Without creative thinking, we would no longer have innovation in any area, as we would become complacent and not want to explore and explain the complex and confusing world that we live in.

Freelance Writer

I’m a freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Boston University. My work has been featured in publications like the L.A. Times, U.S. News and World Report, Farther Finance, Teen Vogue, Grammarly, The Startup, Mashable, Insider, Forbes, Writer (formerly Qordoba), MarketWatch, CNBC, and USA Today, among others.