Jens Langner

Creativity is a key ingredient of both science and art, but how much can scientific inquiry tell us about creativity? A new report from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) provides perspective on current and future avenues for creativity research, basing many of its findings on an SFI working group held in July 2014.

“Science can study creativity, but creativity is also central to the scientific process; it is useful to understand both directions of this interaction,” said SFI Professor and Chair of the Faculty Jennifer Dunne, who co-organized the working group with Bill O’Brien and Sunil Iyengar of the NEA.

During the working group and in the report, participants grappled with how to define the concept of creativity, and how to study it in a way that integrates insights from cognitive science, psychology, education, defense, healthcare, the arts, and neuroscience. The NEA report lays out key findings from the Santa Fe working group, and also sets future goals for creativity research.

Among the conclusions from the report:

- Creativity research requires more partnerships among neurobiologists, artists, psychologists, and educators.

- More than 30 years of cognitive-behavioral research has informed our knowledge about creativity, but there is little neuroscience to back it up. The field needs neuroscientific validation of existing tools to assess creativity in individuals. If effective, these tests can be adopted more widely by our nation's educators, employers, and other decision-makers. 

- Brain research is a young field, which makes it the perfect time to invest in creativity research, even while neuroscience models and technologies continue to develop. 

“The time is ripe for bringing together artists, scientists, and educators to collaboratively confront the question of how creativity functions in the brain,” said O’Brien. “Imagine the potential for our nation's health, education, culture, and productivity if we were able to truly understand the anatomy of our ‘aha’ moments, and how they can be nurtured, optimized, and deployed.”

Read the NEA report How Creativity Works in the Brain 

Read the article on the NEA website (July 29, 2015)