Dialectics of Creativity

Consider the Müller-Lyer illusion as an illustration (Müller-Lyer, 1889). According to dual-process psychology, perceptual processes yield the false impression that the two lines differ in length, while the cognitive processes know better – although they are unable to change the perception itself (Sloman, 1996). According to the dialectical perspective, one type of mental analysis determines that the two long vertical lines are identical in the way they stimulate the sensory apparatus. Another type of analysis notes that the short oblique lines suggest a special orientation. One vertical line appears to be the outer edge of a three-dimensional body, while the other appears to be the inner edge. The dialectical solution is to assume that the line appearing to be the inner edge is farther away, and that because it is identical in length according to the first analysis, it must in fact be longer. The illusion arises from the dialectic of a mismatch between physical stimulation and intelligent inference. Perception is creative.


Creativity is a process and a result. The creative process, as conceptualized in this article, is a dialectical interplay between opposing forces. A creative result is both novel and useful according to most definitions, although the criterion of usefulness is suspended (as in art appreciation) when that is considered useful.
Dialectics is a method of inquiry by argument and debate, as introduced by Socrates. In Plato’s rendering of these debates, Socrates wins, making his opponents interesting straw men and undermining the presumed meaning of dialectics. In Hegel’s epistemology, dialectics comprise the triad of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, where the latter is thought to be genuine advance beyond the former two
Divergent thinking produces many (fluency), diverse (originality) and well-articulated (elaboration) responses to a given prompt. In contrast to convergent thinking, which seeks to identify the single best response, divergent thinking seeks to identify multiple suitable responses. Divergent thinking is critical in a fluid, changing environment.
Dual-systems theories view the mind as two minds: one quick, impulsive, and irrational, and another slow, thoughtful, and rational. The rational mind makes better and more coherent judgments when allowed to do its work. Yet, it cannot do certain things that come easy to the irrational mind, such as perceiving a cat.
Incubation. As described ably by Russell (1930) mental incubation is a period of unawareness during which cognitive reorganization takes place until – in some cases – a desired solution or answer to a problem pops into consciousness. The term is a misnomer because it suggests a predictable process of maturation, whereas the processes of reorganization may be chaotic.
Remote associates are ideas, usually words, that are associated with several others, which, in turn, are not directly associated with one another. The remote associate is that idea, which binds the otherwise unrelated ideas together. It is a common denominator or organizing principle, and hence a test case for the ability to creatively think beyond simple pairwise associations.


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