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Record Type: Review   ID: 222

Before the Gates of Excellence: The Determinants of Creative Genius

Ochse, R.

 This overview defines creative persons as those whom experts have recognized "as having contributed something of original value to the culture" (p. 4). The first consists of one chapter that is a historical overview of three parts 20th-century creativity theories and one part that reviews the types of research that have explored the nature of genius. The second is composed of 6 chapters on the creative person, one each on social background, home environment, education and career, characteristics of creative achievers, motivation, and developmental pattern. The third part, Creative Thinking and Inspiration, contains 4 chapters: Stages in Creative Problem-Solving, Specific Abilities and Processes Involved in Creative Problem-Solving, Traditional Views of the Role of Unconscious Processes, and Unconscious Processing and Inspiration: A New Interpretation. This last section is the one most relevant to exceptional human experience. However, Ochse does not consider creative inspiration as exceptional, nor is it associated only with genius. However, he does consider it a nonordinary event. Although it is "a normal occurrence in the lives of unexceptional individuals....It is distinguished from a trivial insight or the sudden recognition of a simple fact by the content. And it is the significance of the content that calls upon arousal and attention, and makes the experience memorable" (p. 154). He also notes that the creative process institutes "qualitative transformations of existing knowledge" (p. 254). Moreover, creativity requires a broad lateral base—knowing a little about many things and a lot about the area of one’s special interest. Thus, he points out that everyone has inspirations, but mostly they are forgotten "unless they have some enduring relevance (or the person has been asked to record such incidents)" (p. 254). By this criterion, creative inspiration is not an exceptional human experience unless it concerns a topic of importance. What makes it "important," I suggest, is whether or not it remains isolated from the person’s identity and life or is incorporated into his or her life or changes it in some way. And even "trivial" inspirations can be incorporated if one works with them, one way of doing so being to write them down, associate to them, treat them as metaphors, share them with others, read about them, etc. In this sense, creative insights are EHEs, but to become memorable, an EHE must become a conscious part of the experiencer, whether it be an experience of inspiration, levitation, or making an "impossible" play while engaging in a sport. So perhaps what makes an inspiration truly creative or an experience truly exceptional is the amount of attention we devote to it.
Publisher Information:New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990. 300p. Bibl: 261-288; 3 figs; Name Index: 289-295; Subject Index: 297-300; 11 tables
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