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Chapter 6 - The Function of Personality in Creativity  pp. 113-130

The Function of Personality in Creativity

By Gregory J. Feist

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  • The cave paintings of Lascaux.
  • The great Pyramids of Egypt.
  • Plato's philosophical works.
  • Copernicus's heliocentric astronomy.
  • Shakespeare's plays.
  • Newton's calculus and theories of gravity and mechanics.
  • Beethoven's and Mozart's symphonies.
  • Darwin's (and Wallace's) theory of natural selection.
  • Einstein's theory of relativity.
  • Watson and Crick's discovery of the DNA molecule.

These are just a few of the truly creative accomplishments of our species. When truly creative ideas, pieces of art, or behavior occur, we all want to know: How did that happen? Who created that? Why didn't I think of that?! Assuming one's curiosity is peaked, then the next set of questions that comes up is, What qualities of thought or personality does that person have that the rest of us do not have? What makes him or her so special?

Creativity of that magnitude is special and exceedingly rare. Yet creativity comes in many different forms, shades, and hues. First, the creativity of great artists and scientists is what attracts most attention, and for good reason. These enterprises are cornerstones of culture and provide mileposts of our cultural development and progress. And yet, not everyone who is an artist or scientist is equally creative, nor are all creative people either artists or scientists. Some are creative in business, in their understanding of other people, or simply in living. In short, the qualities of creativity that are both fascinating and yet frustrating are its complexity and variability. This chapter reviews the current (last 10 years of) research on personality and creativity that mostly supports but occasionally calls for modifications in the model I proposed in both qualitative and quantitative reviews of the late 1990s (Feist, 1998, 1999).

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