An important component of research in creativity has been the development of theories concerning the mechanisms underlying creative thinking. Modern theories of creative thinking have been advanced from many different viewpoints, ranging from Guilford's pioneering psychometric theory (e.g., 1950; see also Runco, 1991) to those developing out of clinical interests, broadly conceived (e.g., Eysenck, 1993). Other theories have developed out of Gestalt psychology (e.g., Wertheimer, 1982), traditional associationistic experimental psychology (e.g., Mednick, 1962), Darwinian theory (e.g., Campbell, 1960; Simonton, 1988, 1995); social-psychological perspectives (e.g., Amabile, 1983), investment perspectives (e.g., Sternberg & Lubart, 1995), and modern cognitive science (e.g., Martindale, 1995). In this chapter, I examine one critical issue confronting all such theories: the role of knowledge in creativity.
Although the various theoretical views proposed by psychologists appear on the surface to be very different, there is among many of them, including all those just cited, one critical assumption concerning the relationship between knowledge and creativity. Since creative thinking by definition goes beyond knowledge, there is implicitly or explicitly assumed to be a tension between knowledge and creativity. Knowledge may provide the basic elements, the building blocks out of which are constructed new ideas, but in order for these building blocks to be available, the mortar holding the old ideas together must not be too strong.