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Creativity and Reinforced Variability

  • Allen Neuringer

Abstract

Campbell (1960) argued that random variations are essential for creativity because, if an act is truly novel or original, it cannot be anticipated or preformulated. A random process implies, according to Campbell, that generation of variations cannot be accounted for by knowledge of prior environmental events. (Ultimately the environment selects from among the variations [see Donahoe, this volume], but Campbell’s focus, and that of the present paper, is on the variation process itself.) Campbell was convincing that variability is necessary for creativity—replication is not creative—but contemporary research shows that the process by which variations are generated is in fact influenced by the environment. Variable versus repetitive actions, levels of variability, the set of possible variants, and the probability of unlikely combinations; all of these are directly affected by consequences. Stated simply, behavioral variability can be reinforced. To the extent that variability is necessary, creativity may wither in the absence of environmental support. This claim is both controversial, because many believe that reinforcement is detrimental to creativity, a claim to which I shall return, and important, because it indicates a direction for educational and social policy.

Keywords

Intrinsic Motivation Experimental Subject Animal Behavior Process Comic Book Reinforcement Theory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Allen Neuringer
    • 1
  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentReed CollegePortlandUSA

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