A Great Review of Explaining Creativity

Today I was thrilled to read an enthusiastic review* of my book Explaining Creativity, by Professor James Kaufman and Alexander McKay. Explaining Creativity is the second edition of a book I published in 2006, as a textbook overview of the field of creativity research. Since 2006, there’s been a lot of new research, so this new book is totally different; for example, it has seven new chapters and eight new appendices.

Excerpts from the review:

Required reading for anyone interested in the topic. In a just world, Sawyer’s thorough and nuanced volume would be the best seller, not Jonah Lehrer’s pedestrian Imagine.

Sawyer’s book is easily the most thorough creativity text on the market.

We highly recommend this book.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my book and for writing such a strong review!

*Kaufman, J. and McKay, A. (2012). Incisive and balanced: R. Keith Sawyer explains creativity. PsycCRITIQUES: APA Review of Books. August 22, 2012, Vol. 57, Release 33, Article 5

7 thoughts on “A Great Review of Explaining Creativity

  1. Keith

    Hopefully soon I will read your second edition thru either UGA’s library or Clarke County’s library of their respective inter-library-loan systems to see how your revised the chapters about the research done from 1950 to 1985 by Guilford, Torrance, Stein, Parnes, Taylor and so many others.

  2. I hope you like it! As you’ll see, I acknowledge each of those scholars as being the source of many ideas and theories that are today associated with later scholars (as you have pointed out to me also). I hope you’ll agree that this book is the one that best acknowledges this influential first group of scholars. (Make sure to also look at the appendices.)

  3. Congrats. I am so happy for you. I totally agree with James-as you know we use this in an MS Creativity and Innovation course. BTW, James is our Torrance lecturer this year. We combined the ACA conference with the Torrance lecture.


  4. I strongly concur with the review. For my thesis research I have had to review a great deal of material on creativity research, and I can confidently say that “Explaining Creativity” is the best single source I’ve found for a thorough and integrative review of what, and how, we know about human creativity.

    My only complaint is that it wasn’t available when I started reviewing the literature two years ago.

  5. I must disagree that this book is the sort of unbiased overview that an ideal survey of creativity research should be. For instance, the author misunderstands the Romantics’ views of creativity, which are (note plural) far more nuanced and sophisticated than he allows. The straw-man view of Romanticism presented here is completely unconvincing.

    The book is also far too biased toward a pro-social, Darwinian view of creativity, one that fails to grasp the distinction between social animals and socialized animals, such as humans. There is also inadequate stress on the negative influence of social behavior and pressures on creativity.

    The ideal survey of creativity research will ultimately come from researchers who do not have their own theory or personal perspective to promote.

    1. This comment refers to three pages in Chapter 2 of the book, which begin as follows: “Over the centuries, conceptions of creativity have veered between two broad ideas: rationalism and Romanticism. Rationalism is the belief that creativity is generated by the conscious, deliberate, intelligent, rational mind; Romanticism is the belief that creativity bubbles up from an irrational unconscious, and that rational deliberation interferes with the creative process” (p. 23). The three-page discussion that follows cites several scholarly writings about the Romantic movement, although I admit it is very brief, given that I am painting a broad (and admittedly) simplistic opposition that we find over many centuries (and not only in the early 19th century). I would be happy to learn more about these more nuanced and sophisticated views! But I don’t think that sort of discussion would have been appropriate at this point in the book.

      You are correct that I make the argument that for the most part, social influences are an essential aspect of the creative process; and that the constraining role of conventions is overblown, and reflects an overly individualistic conception of how creativity works. But my argument is grounded in scientific research findings, it is unfair to call it a “bias”. And even so, my book has a thorough review of individualist psychological studies of creativity; Chapter 4 reviews research on the creative personality; chapters 5, 6, and 7 review studies of the mind’s creative process; in chapter 10, I review cognitive neuroscience studies of the brain engaged in creative activities.

  6. May I contribute to this discussion by suggesting 2 posts from my website that discuss creativity, what it is, and, importantly, what it is not:

    Creativity: A Prelude – bit.ly/12NAgWQ
    What Creativity is not – bit.ly/1484hqv


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