Creativity and interdisciplinarity: one creativity or many creativities?


Psychologists and educators frequently debate whether creativity and problem solving are domain-general—applicable to all disciplines and tasks—or domain-specific—tailored to specific disciplines and tasks. In this paper, we briefly review the major arguments for both positions, identify conceptual and empirical weaknesses of both perspectives, and describe two relatively new hybrid models that attempt to address ways in which creativity and innovation are both domain-general and domain-specific.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    Interestingly, lists of polymaths rarely include women, although many lists are quite multicultural. However, the lists tend to focus within dominant cultures at specific points in time. For example, the lists are heavily populated by Renaissance Italians, Revolutionary-era Americans, Ninth Century Arabs, and Eleventh Century Chinese. When perusing these lists, it appears important to keep in mind that the victors write history.

  2. 2.

    Ceiling effects, in this context, represent the fact that bright students tend to score at the top end of the scale on many cognitive assessments, whereas their scores show greater variance when the “ceiling” is higher on specific intellectual tests. By placing an arbitrarily low ceiling on test scores, the appearing lack of variance can lead to questionable conclusions about test performance.


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Correspondence to Jonathan Plucker.

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Plucker, J., Zabelina, D. Creativity and interdisciplinarity: one creativity or many creativities?. ZDM Mathematics Education 41, 5–11 (2009) doi:10.1007/s11858-008-0155-3

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  • Creativity
  • Domain-specificity
  • Domain-generality
  • Problem solving