One would like to know how to teach students to think creatively. There are numerous proposals on the subject and a small amount of encouraging data (Cropley, 1992; Finke, Ward, & Smith, 1992; Nickerson, 1999; Stein, 1974, 1975; Sternberg & Lubart, 1991). I am becoming increasingly convinced that attitudes and beliefs play a much greater role in determining the quality of one's thinking – creative or critical – than is generally recognized. This is not to suggest that skills and knowledge are unimportant but rather that they are only part of the equation, and by themselves are insufficient to ensure that creative thinking will occur.
The idea that attitudes and beliefs are important to creative thinking – as well as to critical thinking – is not novel; many researchers have expressed it (Andrews & Debus, 1978; Baron, 1991; Deci & Ryan, 1985; Dweck, 1975; Reid, 1987). Unfortunately, research has not yet yielded a reliable prescription for promoting the attitudes and beliefs on which creative or critical thinking depends. It occurred to me that it might be easier to specify how to instill attitudes and beliefs that tend to stifle thinking, because, if the conclusions from numerous assessments of the thinking abilities of many students are to be believed, we collectively seem to know how to do this rather well.
While not wishing to claim to be an expert on how to stifle creativity, I know how I would go about it if that were my purpose.