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Assessment 2

An essay comparing and evaluating two theories of creativity

Lecturer/Tutor’s Name:

Diane Phillips

Tutorial (Day/Time):

2000 words


Creativity is a significant aspect that has propelled humanity to churn out ideas so as to overcome adversaries. However, the critical concern is how individuals churn out creative ideas. In regard to these various theoretical constructs have been fronted and thus the purpose of this paper was to compare, evaluate and outline the most pragmatic theory between creativity theory based on grace and cognitive theory of creativity. The paper established the two are integral in explaining creativity. However, irrespective of their capacity in explaining creativity, cognitive theory emerges as the most practical theory in explaining creativity as it adheres to the three parameters and confluence of creativity which is knowledge, creative thinking and motivation.


Creativity is a heterogenic phenomenon that differs amongst individuals. This is why an individual can display more creativity than another entity. Another question that elicits concern for interrogation where do the creative products come from and how are they created? Emergence of such novel idea normally requires probing so the muse, insight and inspiration that leads to delivery of such idea (Christensen, 2005, p.5). In response to such realisation, theorists in creativity domain have proposed various constructs so as to explain and contextualise creativity amongst individuals (Gerlovina, 2011, p.1). Such theories include theory of association; the theory of accidents/ serendipity; creativity as an act of grace and cognitive theory of creativity (Henry, 2001, p.10; Ward, 2007, p. 28). As such, the aim of this paper is to compare and evaluate creativity theory based on grace against cognitive theory of creativity.

To contextualise the discussion the paper examines the weaknesses and the strength of the two propositions and weighs them against each other. Based on the assessment, in overall, the discourse argues that cognitive theory of creativity presents the most pragmatic answer about the sources of creativity and innovation between the two owing to the fact that grace theory is anchored on parameters such divine intervention or super human potential which create a scenario that only a select few can be creative as opposed to cognitive theory of creativity that posits that creativity is about deliberate endeavour that involves application of one’s faculties & basic cognitive process to the pre-existing knowledge structures so as to deliver novel ideas.

The theories

Ward (2007, p. 28) point out that creative cognition approach take cognisance of the fact that generation of creative ideas entails utilisation of basic cognitive processes to the existing knowledge structure. In this whole encounter, individual or teams relies on proofs from subjective accounts of creativity and highly regulated laboratory experiments developed to assess the processes that are presupposed to function in those anecdotes. On the other hand, theory of grace which up to 1950s was dominant theory in creativity field supposed that creativity was derived from supernatural intervention that availed to select few artistic insights (Henry, 2001, p.10).

Comparative viewpoints and perspectives

To contextualise the discussion and guide the framework for analysis, the critical parameters that constitute confluence or creativity and innovation occupy a core position in the discourse. Adams (2005, p.4) notes that creativity or realisation of novel ideas is as a result of having a confluence of knowledge, creative thinking and motivation. In this regard, knowledge is treated as the ‘understanding an individual brings to bear on a creative effort’. Creative thinking is conceptualised as the approach individuals direct to a problem premised on their personality & thinking/ working style. Finally, motivation is conceptualised in regard to intrinsic passion and interest in the work itself. These three parameters constitute an important framework of analysing how theories address creativity.

In a comparative manner, one of the parting points that constitute a strength and weakness between the two theories is within the aspect of knowledge in creativity. Henry (2001, p.10) notes that theory of grace is premised on the belief that creativity is granted to a selected gifted few by nature/gods while on the other hand, cognitive theory takes in account that creativity is anchored on ‘mental flexibility’ that any individual could acquire owing to the intrinsic motivation they possess. On the other hand, Ward (2007, p.28-29) notes that cognitive theory of creativity is highly informed by cognitive psychology/ science that is embedded on ‘precise characterisation and rigorous scientific study of the cognitive processes that lead to creative and non creative outcomes’.

Indeed, from the above description, theory of grace emerges as a weaker and less plausible option as compared to the cognitive theory of creativity. Cognitive theory of creativity appreciates the central role of knowledge in creativity as compared to grace theory that is based on insights that cannot be explained. Gabora (2002, p.2) notes that cognitive modes is integral in empowering an individual in building intuitive associative mode that that explains nexus between items that are correlated, but might not be casually related-this leads to creation of vague idea on the subject under consideration. Subsequently, analytic mode follows and this allows for critical analysis of relationship and the ‘cause effect’ domain and as such giving insights to possible solutions for the problem.

Christian (2004, p.475) notes that, ‘the most important reason for hope may be that collective learning now operates on a larger scale and more efficiently than ever before. If there are solutions to be found, both for humans and for the biosphere as a whole, the global information networks of modern humans can surely find them. These networks gave us the technologies that helped us mould the biosphere as we wished, and modern, electronically driven networks of collective learning have helped us understand the dangers of our in-creasing ecological power’.contemplate the universe and reconstruct its past (Christian, 2003, p.489). In this regard, vertical ascend in education, technology, economy and social aspects with collective/ cumulative learning constitutes integral factors in human beings creativity (Loye, 2004, p.240). A best example is for cognitive theory of creativity is linked to the cumulative learning advanced by Christian (2003) where the belief is that humans are able to

On the other hand, the grace theory displays a higher potential in regard to the fact that there creative individuals who do not engage in cognitive process, but are creative in their own rights. Bink & Marsh (2000, p.59) indicate that grace theory premised on extraordinary ability is and continues to be one of the core proposition for dissecting creativity. This is mostly informed by belief that creativity is a function of intervention by muses under Greek mythology. Equally, Popper and Plato observed that creativity was mystic and not necessarily rational. The plausibility of such argument is strengthened by the fact that most theories have not been able to adequately creative behaviours.

(2005, p.5) notes that it still baffles minds of individuals on how Danish carpenter invented the stand-up floor-hammer. To him such discoveries are only possible as result of mystical insights, divine interventions or a consideration of genius.ChristensenThe above argument is supported by the rationale that there exist various individuals across the world who cannot deliberately engaged in the supposed format of cognitive theory of creativity that involves analytic mode, visualisation of cause-effect relationship under controlled experimental environment yet they have churned out masterpiece discoveries, genuine original artefacts, innovations, products or processes through high levels of creativity. Such creativity is highly exhibited in creative and performing arts. For instance,

The second parting point that constitutes the strengths of cognitive theory of creativity and the weakness of theory of creativity based on grace is their ability to contextualise the confluence of creative thinking. What stands out in regard to cognitive theory of creativity is the rationale that it accepts the central role of creative thinking in creativity as opposed to mere occurrence without explanation that is only attributed to divine and super natural interventions and thus ignoring the production process involved in such novelty (Pope, 2005, p.7).

For instance, Gabora (2002, p.2) notes that under cognitive theory of creativity, one has to undertake three necessary steps so as to arrive at the creative solution or discovery. The first instance is the preparation phase is demarcated with in-depth search for information and urge to solve the problem. This is closely followed by illumination where individuals seek to establish the unknown bisociation. Finally, there is the verification stage where the idea is converted into a format that in can be communicated to the interested parties and be utilised effectively for prosperity.

Gabora (2002) posits that to attain the three steps, a rational individual is is likely to exploit various approaches such deductive, rational or brainstorming approach. For instance, brainstorming as the last option in instances that rational and decutive approaches have failed is significant in ensuring that a creative thinker sees a new perspective by strengthening weaker inter-concepts relationships so as to build in-depth insights. The second critical encounter is the focusing of ideas so as to build non-existent new combinations.

The emerging picture is that cognitive theory of creativity is centred on analytical thinking of recalling events, forming images, using language and dreaming (Smith, Ward & Finke, 1995, p.1). The basic is to apply incremental decision making process derived from cumulative knowledge so as to create a novel and innovative idea (Smith, Ward & Finke, 1995, p.2). In this regard, Tarter & Hoy (1998) defines incremental decision as that one that is informed by past experiences through a cognitive process. An example of incremental and cumulative knowledge premised on cognitive theory is the discovery of DNA by Watson. Apart from such, the current automobiles we have is as a result of not insights or extraordinary ability, but on application of cumulative knowledge (Smith, Ward & Finke, 1995, p.2).

Discussion and standpoint

The two theories are valid to the extent that they validate creativity. Cognitive theory of creativity is an integral process as it presents innovative individuals as people who are able to traverse from association-based to causation based thinking which is principal to fine-tuning and actualisation of creative piece. Such realisations on creativity find application in the context of science, research and innovation of products. The strength of this proposition lies on the fact that it presents creative individuals as those who do not discover issues in a haphazard manner, but in systemic manner through engagement of cognitive faculties.

On the extreme of the continuum, theory of creativity based on grace is equally valid to the extent that it explains creativity owing to the fact that there are various systemic gaps and lacuna that other theories such as cognitive theory of creativity, serendipity and association theory of creativity does not contextualise or explain and are thus, are better contextualised through grace theory. In this instance, scenarios such as creative individuals who formulate discoveries of artefact but not following the path espoused in cognitive theory of creative are worth mentioning. Such instances are normally exhibited in domains such as performing & creative arts and talents.

Despite of these positive notes on the two theories, the cognitive theory of creativity presents the most plausible option is explaining creativity in humanity. The rationale for stating such argument is based on the fact that the theory takes cognisance of the confluence of three principal ingredients in creativity that includes knowledge, creative thinking and motivation. On the other hand, grace theory is weakened as it depicts creative process as that beyond the mental control of human beings as it is mostly informed by insights from super natural forces. This equally depicts a scenario that only a selected few can be creative yet the logical realisation that those who have the intrinsic drive and are able to methodologically apply knowledge can be able to build cause-effect relationship that develop genuine and helpful discoveries. This is mostly seen in the development of most innovative products through cumulative knowledge.


The purpose of this article was to compare and evaluate two theories of creativity. The paper settled on the grace theory of creativity and cognitive theory of creativity. As a benchmark for analysing the two theories, the paper relied on the three confluence of creativity – which is knowledge, creative thinking and motivation. The paper established the two theory to a larger extent are valid as per their claims as they address salient issues that others might not. For instance, there are innovations and discoveries that re as a result of applying cognitive process and at the same time there are discoveries and creative artefacts that are not as a result of cognitive creativity, association or serendipity, but as a result of insights that cannot be explained and thus attributed to grace. These are mostly common in domains such as performing arts. However, despite of these uniqueness the paper argues that cognitive theory of creativity is the most plausible option between the two as it presents creative process as that which is demarcated by knowledge, creative thinking and motivation.


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