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The Beer Can Theory of Creativity

Gabora, Liane M. (2002) The Beer Can Theory of Creativity. [Book Chapter]

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Abstract

In lieu of abstract (since it is a book chapter) I provide the outline and introduction. OUTLINE 1. Introduction 2. Culture as an Evolutionary Process Variation and Selection in Biology and Culture Is More than One Mind Necessary for Ideas to Evolve? Meme and Variations: A Computer Model of Cultural Evolution Dampening Arbitrary Associations and Strengthening Meaningful Ones Chaos, Order, Connectivity, and Information 3. Creativity as the Origin of Culture Theoretical Evidence Evidence from Animal Behavior Archeological Evidence What Caused the Onset of Creativity? 4. The Cognitive Architecture Underlying Conceptual Fluidity Evoking from Memory is a Contextual, Reconstructive Process Defocused Attention and Flat Associative Hierarchies What is an Inkling? The Pre-Inkling Courtship 5. The Crystallization of a Creative Idea The Drive To Unify or Reconcile Creations as Mirrors that Reflect and Reinforce the Self Variable Fluidity as the Crux of Creative Potential Annealing on a New Worldview Gestation and Birth: From Inkling to Insight 6. Closing Thoughts 1. INTRODUCTION I had to laugh this morning while reading the Ottawa Citizen when I saw a crafty yet bafflingly incompetent vandal described as "He's got a full six pack, but the plastic thingy that holds them together is missing". It's a spin-off of the saying "He's one can short of a full six pack", which itself is a Canadianized version of "He's lost a few marbles" or "He's not playing with a full deck". Not only does the newspaper description beautifully exemplify one of the main issues of this chapter-the interplay of variation and continuity as a creative insight is adapted from one context or circumstance to another. But content-wise, it's a pithy summary of another, related issue dealt with here: in order to adapt the idea to a new context, in order to evolve it in new directions, it must originally have been stored in memory in a way that implicitly identifies its relationships to other ideas. In other words, when it comes to creativity, how your 'beer cans' are connected together is as important as how many of them there are. This chapter explores the cognitive mechanisms underlying the emergence and evolution of cultural novelty. Section Two summarizes the rationale for viewing the process by which the fruits of the mind take shape as they spread from one individual to another as a form of evolution, and briefly discusses a computer model of this process. Section Three presents theoretical and empirical evidence that the sudden proliferation of human culture approximately two million years ago began with the capacity for creativity-that is, the ability to generate novelty strategically and contextually. The next two sections take a closer look at the creative process. Section Four examines the mechanisms underlying the fluid, associative thought that constitutes the inspirational component of creativity. Section Five explores how that initial flicker of inspiration crystallizes into a solid, workable idea as it gets mulled over in light of the various constraints and affordances of the world into which it will be born. Finally, Section Six wraps things up with a few speculative thoughts about the overall unfolding of this evolutionary process.

Item Type:Book Chapter
Keywords:concept, creativity, culture, evolution, variation, selection, idea, association, chaos, order, edge of chaos, memory, connectivity, information, origin of culture, contextuality, reconstruction, fluidity, idea, insight, consciousness, double aspect theory, inkling, worldview
Subjects:Psychology > Cognitive Psychology
ID Code:4768
Deposited By:Gabora, Dr. Liane
Deposited On:16 Mar 2006
Last Modified:11 Mar 2011 08:56

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