Just Published: A Comprehensive Overview of Creativity Research

Now available from Oxford University Press:

Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation, Second Edition


When I published the first edition of Explaining Creativity in 2006, it was the first overview of creativity research. Since that time, the field has matured significantly, with two more textbook overviews (by Mark Runco and Robert Weisberg) and several edited handbooks, and a lot more great research. So I’ve been hard at work these last two years, writing this second edition… It’s radically new, with seven new chapters, 8 new appendixes, and every other chapter rewritten. As Dean Keith Simonton (UC Davis) says,

Without doubt, Explaining Creativity is the most comprehensive single-volume presentation of what we know about the creative process, person, and product. Besides that, the book is extremely well-written.

Here’s a small sample of some of the more surprising things you’ll learn in this book, that aren’t collected in any other book about creativity:

Which famous creativity researcher first introduced Timothy Leary to psychedelic mushrooms?

  • Frank X. Barron (Chapter 2, p. 18)

In what year and location was the first patent granted?

  • 1474 in Venice (Chapter 2, p. 21)

The fourth-grade slump is a myth; creativity continually increases with age. (Chapter 4, p. 74)

In recent decades, the formerly observed drop in creativity in later years is no longer occuring; find out why on page 288. (Chapter 15)

Abraham Maslow’s graduate advisor, Harry Harlow, first documented that external rewards interfered with motivation, in a study with which animal species?

  • Monkeys (Chapter 4, pp. 78-79)

The story about Archimedes shouting Eureka in the bathtub is a myth; find out how we know on page 97. (Chapter 5)

When was the ten year rule first documented, and in which area of expertise?

  • In 1899 with telegraph operators. (Chapter 5, p. 93)

The story of Kekule dreaming of a snake biting its tail and then realizing the molecular structure of benzene is a myth; find out the story on pages 373-374. (Chapter 20)

The story of Mendel discovering modern genetics and then being ignored for 35 years is false; find out the real story on pages 378-379. (Chapter 20)

In what year was the first creativity training program?

  • 1937 at GE (Appendix A, p. 439)

Who designed the cover graphic of the Creativity Research Journal?

  • Mark Runco’s son, Chris Runco (Appendix C, p. 445) 

6 thoughts on “Just Published: A Comprehensive Overview of Creativity Research

  1. The book that is NEXT needed is looking at creativity in particular disciplines; for example, creativity in dispute resolution is what differentiates great settlement judges, mediators and other neutrals in civil litigation (worldwide). But, it is not taught, studied or even considered in most law schools nor in most post-law continuing education. How and when will this change? It is the way most complex litigation is resolved before (and sometimes even after) trial! Thus, more focused research in this area is critical. The same can be said for other disciplines such as creativity in business, medicine and almost every other licensed (and unlicensed!) profession.

    1. I agree completely! A lot of creativity research suggests that creativity is “domain specific,” meaning that it’s specific to each particular discipline. I summarize the “domain general/domain specific” debate in the new second edition; also, I have five chapters that focus on specific domains: visual arts, writing, music, theater, and science.

      There is good work out there on creativity in business, engineering, and design professions…I’m not aware of any studies of dispute resolution, that would be an important and exciting study!

  2. My colleague, MaryAnn Hallenborg, Esq. and I for two years have team taught a class integrating creativity and innovation concepts in Drexel’s Earl Mack College of Law mediation course taught by law professor, Nancy Kraybill.
    Fredricka Reisman, Ph.D.
    Professor & Director, Drexel Torrance Center for Creativity and Innovation

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