Handbook of Research on Creativity
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Handbook of Research on Creativity

Edited by Kerry Thomas and Janet Chan

In this timely work, creativity is not defined by an ideal, rather it encompasses a range of theories, functions, characteristics, processes, products and practices that are associated with the generation of novel and useful outcomes suited to particular social, cultural and political contexts. Chapters present original research by international scholars from a wide range of disciplines including history, sociology, psychology, philosophy, cultural studies, education, economics and interdisciplinary studies. Their research investigates creativity in diverse fields including art, creative industries, aesthetics, design, new media, music, arts education, science, engineering and technology.
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Chapter 4: What is a creative idea? Little-c versus Big-C creativity

Dean Keith Simonton


Although creativity has attracted accelerated research attention in the 21st century (Hennessey & Amabile, 2010; Runco, 2004), one fundamental problem has yet to be resolved: What does it mean to call an idea creative? Clearly, this definition must lie at the heart of all creativity research (Plucker, Beghetto, & Dow, 2004). If researchers cannot identify what ideas are creative, then investigators certainly cannot study (a) the processes that generate creative ideas, (b) the products that contain creative ideas, or (c) the persons who produce creative ideas (Simonton, 2000, 2003). That is, the creative process, product, and person all have no scientific meaning without first knowing what can be considered a creative idea. To be sure, the lack of a definition has not prevented numerous researchers from studying creative processes, products, and persons (Kaufman & Sternberg, 2006, 2010a). Even so, because different researchers proceed with contrary explicit or implicit definitions, they cannot actually be studying the same phenomenon, a divergence that can lead to ambiguous, even conflicting results.

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