Interest in creativity has a long history.
Its origin dates back to the early Modern Age, when Renaissance painters and sculptors claimed rights to independence, freedom and creativity (Albert & Runco, 1999). Their writings reveal how much they struggled even to find the appropriate term that would best fit that attitude. It was not until the seventeenth century, however, that thinkers dared to assert that poetry —alone among all the arts for the time being— involves creating something new, in the sense that God created the universe out of nothing. Until then it was common to believe that the human mind was incapable of true creation, since it was limited by its intrinsic functional mechanisms and, at most, had to be satisfied with combining elements taken from nature (Tatarkiewicz, 1980).
The study of creativity from a scientific point of view, developing instruments to measure and analyze it, is much more recent. It was triggered in the 1960s when, after the first artificial satellite was put into orbit by the Soviet Union in 1957—there was a popular outcry in the United States that gave way to the space race (Park, 2013). Discussions about why the initial Soviet supremacy in the conquest of space led immediately to the need to understand and analyze the components of creative thinking, in the idea that creativity was the engine of scientific progress and that, by understanding its keys, it would be possible through appropriate teaching to increase the creative abilities of the subjects.
Such a purpose actually includes three distinct but closely related problems:
(i) to specify the concept of creativity, detailing its possible dimensions.
(ii) to measure the capacity for creative thinking, and
(iii) designing teaching and learning methods capable of increasing the degree of existing creativity.
Today, these obstacles have largely been overcome: creativity is considered as a capacity present in almost any domain of human activity. A fairly widespread definition would identify it with "the ability to produce work that is new (i.e., original, unexpected), of high quality, and appropriate (i.e., useful, meeting the demands of the task it is intended to solve)" (Sternberg, Kaufman, & Pretz, 2002, p. 2). If we accept that this is the case, people could be creative in painting, music, writing, science, business, cooking, decorating, and so on. But they could also find the means to creatively perform even trivial tasks, such as organizing a file or inventing games for a rainy Sunday afternoon. In fact, human culture has used the innovations of previous generations to create things that are more efficient, smaller or larger, faster and lighter than the inherited ones (Tomasello, 1999). Without creativity, our species would never have existed as we know it.
This finding leads us to understand creativity as a hallmark of humanity as a whole.
Camilo José Cela Conde
Scientific Director of the CSC
Photo: Belén Tánago
Camilo José Cela Conde (Madrid, 1946) is Professor Emeritus of the Universidad de las Islas Baleares (UIB) and researcher at the center for the study of brain networks of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid at the Centro de Tecnología Biomédica del Campus de Montegancedo (Madrid). He currently holds the position of Research Director of the Gabarrón Foundation. He has been Professor of Anthropology at the UIB until 2016 and Research Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California (Irvine) until 2018.
He has published in scientific journals such as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, American Journal of Sociology, Biology and Philosophy, Plosone, SCAN, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Brain Research, South African Journal of Science, History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, Evolutionary Anthropology, Spatial Vision, Syntax, Perceptual & Motor Skills, Biological Theory, Human Evolution, Ludus Vitalis, Arbor, Sistema, Pasajes, Cuadernos del Norte, Basilisco, Teorema, Investigación y ciencia, Mundo científico and Claves de razón práctica.
He is a "Fellow" of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (Biology section), distinction awarded in 1999, member of the Center for Academic Research and Teaching in Anthropogeny, Salk Institute & University of San Diego, elected in March 2008 and corresponding member of the Centro de Investigaciones Filosóficas, Políticas y Sociales Vicente Lombardo Toledano, Mexico City (Mexico) appointed in 2015. He is president of the Charo and Camilo José Cela Foundation.
Director of the Center for the Study of Creativity, Gabarron Foundation.