I started thinking about creativity at the age of five. I overheard my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Bollier, say to my mother, “I think Teresa shows a lot of potential for artistic creativity, and I hope that's something she really develops over the years.” Thrilled to hear it, I began imagining a life as a creative artist. Unfortunately, kindergarten was the peak of my artistic career. As I later revisited that flashbulb memory, I often wondered what happened to that promised creativity. Maybe Mrs. Bollier was wrong; I had no artistic talent. But maybe the cause had something to do with my art experiences in the ensuing elementary school years, when artistic activities, limited to one hour on Friday afternoons, consisted of trying to copy various great masterworks in painting. Limited to a few broken crayons and notebook paper, my classmates and I received no skill training; giving it my all, I nonetheless produced monstrosities that consistently earned poor grades. It was decades before I again felt like doing any sort of art.
The mystery of my missing artistic creativity receded into the background as I entered Canisius College, a small liberal arts school, as a chemistry major. I loved each science to which I'd been exposed, and chose chemistry because it looked excitingly challenging. I did well academically and, more importantly, had the opportunity to work in the labs of several research-active chemistry professors. (My first publication was in The Journal of Chromatographic Science.) In the summer after my second year, though, I had a life crisis. Impressed with the passion that my professors had for chemistry – I'd noticed the paper napkins covered with benzene rings and equations that they'd leave on the table after their intense lunch conversations – I realized I didn't enjoy thinking about chemistry on my own time. I didn't have that passion and doubted I ever would. But I wanted to find something that could captivate me that way.
I did find that something, the following year, when I took introductory psychology as an elective. The textbook, long since a classic, was by Ernest Hilgard and Richard Atkinson; the professors were Harvey Pines and Dewey Bayer.