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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Understanding the creative process : personal signatures and cross-domain interpretations of ideas Ranjan, Apara


This dissertation investigated to what extent the expression of personal creative style is recognizable within and across domains. It also investigated to what extent two pieces of art in disparate domains (e.g., a piece of music and a painting) resemble each other, when the first is used as inspiration for the creation of the second. The first set of studies tested the hypothesis that creative style is recognizable within and across domains. Art students who were shown sets of paintings by (1) five famous artists, and (2) their peers identified the artists at above-chance levels. Similarly, creative writing students were given passages by famous writers and by their peers and they identified the writers at significantly above-chance levels. When asked to produce works of art, the creative writing students were able to identify at above chance levels which peer produced each piece of art. Finally, when art students were asked to produce non-painting artworks, they identified which peer produced each non-painting artwork. These findings support the hypothesis that creative styles are recognizable not just within but also across domains. The second study tested whether people were able to match creative outputs with the cross-domain stimuli that inspired them. Three expert painters created four paintings each. Each painting was the artist’s interpretation of one of four different pieces of instrumental music. The participants were able to identify which paintings were inspired by which musical pieces at modestly above-chance levels. They rated similarities between every painting pair, every musical piece pair, and every painting-music pair. Also, all the paintings and musical pieces were rated using a set of psychological variables (e.g., arousal, complexity). When the artists’ creative styles were clearly recognizable in their paintings, it was more difficult for participants to identify the musical pieces that inspired those paintings. This dissertation demonstrates that both personal style and the core of a creative idea are to some extent independent of the domains in which they are initially expressed. This dissertation suggests that individuals have multiple avenues for the expression of personal style, and core ideas have multiple avenues for their creative manifestation.

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