UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Toward an evolutionary-predictive foundation for creativity Gabora, Liane; Kauffman, Stuart

Abstract

Dietrich and Haider (2014) justify their integrative framework for creativity founded on evolutionary theory and prediction research on the grounds that “theories and approaches guiding empirical research on creativity have not been supported by the neuroimaging evidence”. Although this justification is controversial, the general direction holds promise. This commentary clarifies points of disagreement and unresolved issues, and addresses misapplications of evolutionary theory that lead the authors to adopt a Darwinian (versus Lamarckian) approach. To say that creativity is Darwinian is not to say that it consists of variation plus selection—in the everyday sense of the term—as the authors imply; it is to say that evolution is occurring because selection is affecting the distribution of randomly generated heritable variation across generations. In creative thought the distribution of variants is not key, i.e., one is not inclined toward idea A because 60% of one’s candidate ideas are variants of A while only 40% are variants of B; one is inclined toward whichever seems best. The authors concede that creative variation is partly directed; however, the greater the extent to which variants are generated non-randomly, the greater the extent to which the distribution of variants can reflect not selection but the initial generation bias. Since each thought in a creative process can alter the selective criteria against which the next is evaluated, there is no demarcation into generations as assumed in a Darwinian model. We address the authors’ claim that reduced variability and individuality are more characteristic of Lamarckism than Darwinian evolution, and note that a Lamarckian approach to creativity has addressed the challenge of modeling the emergent features associated with insight.

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