Intuition, reason, and creativity: An integrative dual-process perspective
Long before psychology was a science, creativity was seen in many cultures as an essentially important yet diﬃcult to understand aspect of human experience. Throughout history, to account for the mysterious inception of novel and useful ideas, appeals have often been made to supernatural forces and divine intervention. Decades ago, as psychology ﬁrst began to approach, in earnest, the study of creativity from a scientiﬁc perspective, the perception that creativity was enigmatic persisted, with the construct being identiﬁed as amongst “the vaguest, most ambiguous, and most confused terms in psychology” (Ausubel, 1964, p. 344). Recent years have seen increasing amounts of research in the psychological literature aimed at understanding the nature of creative thought, yet this increased attention has done little to rectify the longstanding diﬃculty in characterizing the true nature of creative thought. At the global level, creativity studies has been described as fractionated, with researchers from diverse academic disciplines and subﬁelds of psychology, such as social, cognitive, and industrial/organizational areas, having little convergence in the way they approach the study of creativity (Hennessey & Amabile, 2010). Empirical exploration and theoretical development seems to exist within silos, and the opinion of some leading researchers diverges little from Ausubel’s (1964) characterization, with contemporary research having been described as “murky but plentiful” (Hennessey & Amabile, 2010, p. 576). Confusion abounds within more local issues as well, with a particularly glaring inconsistency appearing in the cognitive literature regarding the extent to which executive cognition aids or hinders the creative process (e.g., Barr, Pennycook, Stolz, & Fugelsang, 2015; Smeekens & Kane, 2016). The current chapter considers this local issue – the relative contribution of executive processing – in light of increasing amounts of evidence that reason is important in many types of creative thinking. Importantly, it is argued that such ﬁndings are not contradictory to results that ﬁnd analytic thinking can hinder creative thought, nor are they in conﬂict with work that illuminates the importance of associative processing in insight problem solving. Rather, such evidence constitutes complementary qualiﬁcations surrounding a nuanced and dynamic psychological construct. Through consideration of the evidence surrounding the interaction of autonomous and controlled thinking in diverse forms of creativity, and the sorts of theoretical models required to account for such evidence, suggestions are made for how to conceptualize creativity more globally, with an eye for unifying some of the broader challenges faced by the study of creativity as a whole. Thus, this chapter has several aims. First, it reviews the growing evidence implicating a central role of analytic thinking in certain types of creative thinking and considers the implications for local debates surrounding the utility of executive engagement in creative thought. It is concluded that diﬀerent sorts of creative thinking require varying degrees of executive engagement and that more local theories of speciﬁc sorts of creative thinking are required. It is then argued that conceiving of this local issue from this perspective has implications for the sorts of broad conceptual frameworks that should be used to describe creative thought across subﬁelds. In particular, it is suggested that researchers ought to adopt a metatheoretical model that can account for the dynamic exchange between autonomous and controlled processing and the way that these modes of thought connect to generative and evaluative content in diverse contexts. To satisfy these requirements, creativity is argued to be best considered in the context of a broader dual-process meta-theoretical framework of human thinking, which has been explicated in the reasoning and decision-making literatures (cf., Evans & Stanovich, 2013). It is suggested that an important aspect of clarifying the nature of creative thinking is to strive for common conceptual language and frameworks across subﬁelds wherever reasonable and feasible (see Silvia, 2014). The beneﬁts of adopting such a perspective within the study of creativity are discussed, as are the positive implications for greater cross-pollination across reasoning and creativity research.
Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group
Number of Pages
creativity, creative thought, creativity studies, human experience, psychology, science, theoretical development, Empirical exploration
Cognitive Psychology | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences
Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences (FHASS)
© Nathaniel Barr
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Barr, Nathaniel, "Intuition, reason, and creativity: An integrative dual-process perspective" (2018). Books & Chapters. 12.
Barr, N. (2018). The new reflectionism in cognitive psychology: Why reason matters. In G. Pennycook (Ed.), The New Reflectionism in Cognitive Psychology: Why Reason Matters. London: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group.