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34 - Imagination Is the Seed of Creativity

from Manifestations of Creativity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 April 2019

James C. Kaufman
University of Connecticut
Robert J. Sternberg
Cornell University, New York
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Imagination – the ability to mentally simulate situations and ideas not perceived by the physical senses – lays the foundation for creativity. Yet imagination alone is insufficient to produce creativity. We define two types of imagination important for creativity: social-emotional and temporal. Social-emotional imagination is the ability to conceive of and reflect on multiple social perspectives and scenarios and the implications of these for one’s own and others’ lives. It promotes creativity by helping individuals understand multiplicities of identity and experience within themselves and others, reason ethically, and appreciate human diversity and potential. Temporal imagination is the ability to engage in mental time travel, counterfactual thinking, and mind-wandering. It can lead to creativity by allowing individuals to engage in the kind of nonliteral, divergent, and future-oriented thought creativity necessitates. For creativity to happen, imaginative thought is infused into mental simulations that are regulated, evaluated, and integrated to conjure new ideas and concepts. As such, in the brain, creativity relies heavily on the default mode network, which is known to be involved in mental simulations across time and especially about social content. Creativity also relies on organized interactions between the default mode network and the executive attention and salience networks, in order for imaginings to be strategically organized into coherent, meaningful plans and actionable ideas. To harness the potential of imagination, individuals need conducive personal qualities, including openness to experience and intrinsic motivation, as well as a supportive context. To better support individuals in developing their creative potential, for example in schools and in the workplace, we must continue to explore the mechanisms by which imagination leads to creativity and the biological, mental, and cultural constraints and affordances.
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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