Creativity is very messy. According to one prominent theory, the creative process involves four stages: preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. This is all well and good in theory. In reality, the creative process often feels like this:
The creative process — from the first drop of paint on the canvas to the art exhibition — involves a mix of emotions, drives, skills, and behaviors. It’d be miraculous if these emotions, traits and behaviors didn’t often conflict with each other during the creative process, creating inner and outer tension. Indeed, creative people are often seen as weird, odd, and eccentric.
Over the years, scientists have attempted to capture the personality of creative people. But it hasn’t been easy putting them under the microscope. As psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who has interviewed creative people across various fields poitns out, creative people “show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an “individual,” each of them is a “multitude.”
So how can we possibly bring order to the messy minds of creators? A new paper offers some hope. Psychologists Guillaume Furst, Paolo Ghisletta and Todd Lubart present an integrative model of creativity and personality that is deeply grounded in past research on the personality of creative people.
Bringing together lots of different research threads over the years, they identified three “super-factors” of personality that predict creativity: Plasticity, Divergence, and Convergence.