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Joining the debate: creativity seen from Eastern and Central Europe.

There is a general consensus nowadays in both academia and different sectors of society that creativity is an important topic. There is also a belief, at least among psychologists, that creativity can and should be studied with the theoretical and methodological means of psychology, something that Guilford (1950) encouraged the community to do more than six decades ago. And yet, multiple challenges are facing those psychologists (and indeed any other researchers) interested in creativity. These challenges are theoretical and empirical. The complexity of the phenomenon and its multifaceted, systemic nature (Csikszentmihalyi, 1988; Gardner, 1993) raises the question of how to study a process that exists at the individual level but also beyond it--in the world of material, social and institutional relations between individuals and between groups. This multi-layered aspect poses also a methodological difficulty and requires us to depart from the traditional use of creativity tests that consider creativity mainly as a cognitive function. Faced with these challenges some might conclude with Borofsky (2001, p. 69) that "grasping creativity is like trying to catch the wind", that there will always be an aspect of creativity that escapes scientific or psychological inquiry. And yet there are also reasons to be optimistic. The field has expanded visibly in the last decades (Hennessey & Amabile, 2010) and advanced in its theoretical models as well as in the process of accumulating data about creativity in different domains and in different countries.

In fact the creativity 'debate' has become increasingly international from a situation in which the discipline was dominated by research coming from the 'West' (Kaufman & Sternberg, 2006). This is not to say that mainstream creativity theory as we know it today is not very much the product of a Western approach, with its historical background and ideological position inscribed into the way we understand what is creative and distinguish the creative from the non-creative. Mythologies of creativity such as the image of the genius, filled up like a vessel by divine inspiration and, later on, dictated by its heredity and eminence (Glaveanu, 2010), are still very much part of the discipline despite its move towards a conception of everyone holding (at least some) creative potential. On the whole, the bulk of the literature on creativity, mostly coming particularly from English-speaking countries, bears the mark of this legacy and continues to be fascinated by the image of the great creator, of Big C or historical creativity, and revolutionary acts able to shape entire domains of knowledge. It is only in the past decades that more social and cultural approaches (re)emerged and the notion of everyday creativity came to acquire a new status and become a clear area of interest in its own right (Richards, 2010). This slight 'cultural myopia' calls for novel theoretical positions and new fields of empirical research that can be achieved only by broadening the dialogue and incorporating what seem to be now 'peripherical' voices and conceptions of creativity (see Kaufman & Sternberg, 2006).

This is precisely the drive behind this special issue of the International Journal of Creativity and Problem Solving. James C. Kaufman--an editor and great friend, who reacted enthusiastically on our proposal to edit this issue--entitled one of his previous editorials in this journal "A truly International Journal of Creativity and Problem Solving" (Kaufman, 2009). We share this assessment and perceive the International Journal of Creativity and Problem Solving as the best place to discuss important problems of contemporary creativity literature from an international perspective. Eastern and Central European views had relatively little space until now to participate in the construction of current creativity theory and research. This state of affairs however doesn't reflect less interest for this topic on the part of scholars from this part of Europe, nor does it suggest their contribution is less valuable. On the contrary, precisely because of a problematic past for most countries in the region--marked by the devastation of the Second World War and then by decades of communist rule--these 'locations' have the potential to revitalise creativity research by bringing their individual and societal experience of resilience and transformation to bear on its conceptualisation. The status of being societies involved in a series of 'transitions'--political, social, economic, educational, etc.--represents a unique resource to be tapped into when understanding phenomena related to creation, emergence, and change. The articles included in this special issue testify to this potential. They showcase the diverse interests of researchers from Eastern and Central Europe in relation to creativity and point to a series of common areas of concern. At least three such commonplaces can be discovered in this issue and we will comment on them in turn: a) implicit theories of creativity; b) culture and individual trajectories; and c) interventions and training. None of these topics, in itself, is specific only for Eastern European scholars, but some of the approaches to their study clearly reflect a personal (and creative) way of engaging with each one of these 'big' issues.


Creativity researchers have turned towards implicit theories of creativity starting from the 1980s with the seminal work of Sternberg (1985) on how people represent creative, intelligent and wise people. This field of study not only complements efforts to construct formal or explicit theories about the phenomenon but can actually contribute greatly to these theories. Lay conceptions of creativity reflect more mundane, everyday understandings and, as such, have a high level of ecological validity: they are, in fact, how creativity is 'constituted' in various settings and, consequently, shape its expression by encouraging (or not) people to adopt a creative identity. It is not by accident that, in this special issue, more than a half of the papers deal with this aspect. Eastern and Central European researchers are interested in implicit theories not only from the pragmatic reasons listed above but, more fundamentally, for an epistemological reason. To collect lay accounts of creativity and study their importance means, in fact, to give 'voice' to a series of conceptions that would otherwise be lost or simply ignored by specialists. Research on implicit theories contributes to the 'polyphony' of views about creativity and, at a symbolic level, empowers ordinary people and allows mundane situations to be integrated into the scientific discourse (Glaveanu, 2011; Karwowski, 2009).

There are many important questions that preoccupy creativity researchers worldwide when it comes to implicit theories. One of them concerns the relation between self-rated creativity and lay conceptions. Szen-Ziemianska's paper (this issue) addresses this connection with regards to Polish managers. Her study uses a multitude of tests and survey to uncover creative thinking, creative attitudes, implicit theories and self-ratings of creativity. The conclusions are promising. Psychometric creativity actually reliably predicts self-rated creativity among managers and their implicit theories tend to be coherent with scientific formulations. A very detailed account of implicit theories among other professional, in this case teachers, is offered by Pavlovic, Maksic and Bodroza (this issues). The authors asked primary teachers in Serbia to define creativity and considered their answers in relation to the four P's conception of creativity. This exercise not only brings together implicit and explicit formulations but is also very useful to understand potential 'biases' towards one or another creativity factor. Indeed, reflecting closely once more the scientific literature, respondents focused primarily on the creative person and process. This raises the important issue of implicit individualism within teacher's conceptions and its potential consequences in the classroom. A special concern for the social element describes also Hojbota's paper (this issue). Using measures of cultural dimensions in a study with Romanian participants, she also notes the idiocentric and not allocentric orientation capable of predicting components of the creative self. It is individualist values and their integration in the definition of the self that shape personal view of the creative personality and this influence is more powerful than that of beliefs concerning personal creative abilities or reported frequency of individualistic behaviours. Such a close connection between individuals and creativity is not only discovered but also questions by the different authors. Nowacki (this issue), for instance, formulates a sound critique of the Western model of creativity and considers how well it can generalise to other cultural spaces and what its educational consequences might be. This interrogation is pressing for Eastern and Central European scholars and invites a closer reflection on the role of culture in 'conditioning' both the conception and expression of creativity.


A clear interest for cultural aspects is the distinctive feature of many papers in this special edition. In different ways, the contributors raise the issue of how the cultural environment can have an impact on creativity and, more importantly, how implicit and explicit theories that downplay the role of culture can be misleading and even harmful for the practice of creativity. Countries from Eastern and Central Europe are perfectly positioned, culturally, to challenge a series of dichotomies (Glaveanu, 2013) very frequently found in the literature on 'Western' and 'Eastern' beliefs about creativity (Lubart, 1999). Cases from this geographical location can also surpass the traditional distinction made by cross-cultural psychologists between individualism and collectivism because most of the societies in this part of Europe are actually described to a certain extent by both. It is exceedingly difficult to pigeonhole cultures that, for centuries, have enjoyed a traditional and communal way of life, suffered more recently the trauma of imposed collectivism and now are, on the whole, moving quite rapidly towards the market economy of the 'West' and dealing with its associated individualist ideology. This is clearly captured in Nowacki's reflection about the Polish context and the ways in which a mainstream focus on innovation rather than adaptation (and revolution rather than evolution) in creative expression can actually disregard local cultural preferences. This directs our focus not only towards theory but also practice, in particular educational programmes developed to enhance creativity, something we will return to in the next section.

For the moment we need to consider also the concern shown not only towards culture but the existence of individuals within cultural environments. The study of personal trajectories through the use of psychobiography is illustrated here by Kovary (this issue) in his article about matricide and creativity. Psychobiography is an interesting and useful method for creativity researchers for many reasons. One of them is that it allows us to connect the individual and societal level and elaborations of this kind of case studies (for instance, Gruber's, 2005, evolving systems approach) have contributed greatly to our understanding of the phenomenon. Kovary's paper is rather unique in that it uses a double case study, that of the Hungarian artists and cousins Geza Csath and Dezso Kosztolanyi. Using a psychoanalytical perspective to uncover what brings the two together but also sets them radically apart, this article successfully illustrates how life (hi)stories depend equally on individual circumstances as well as cultural tendencies that embed personal circumstances.


The third main point of focus in this special issue relates to the important question of educating creativity as well as creativity educators themselves. This more practical concern is again very informative about the Eastern and Central European context where there is not only a need for creativity at a societal level but also an increasing demand for pragmatic approaches in business, in organisations, in schools, and so on. If the field of creativity itself originates to a great extent from similar needs, as expressed by Guilford (1950) in his APA address, it is to be noted that the issue of intervention and training remains to this day a challenge for scholars and practitioners worldwide. This is a good reason why Eastern European researchers can, with the help of their models and educational programmes, be a source of inspiration for other countries and cultural contexts.

Bal-Sezerel and Sak (this issue) discuss the social validity of the Selective Problem Solving Model (SPS), a framework that was proposed to help develop creative problem solving skills using a series of well-defined steps. This Turkish approach to creativity enhancement is notable for several reasons. First of all, it describes in detail the procedures one can use to develop creativity skills particularly in an educational environment but not only. Second, it reveals a justified concern for how people that undergo SPS sessions actually perceive its validity and usefulness. The study they report focused on solving mathematical problems and included six and seventh grade students from Turkey. Further investigations of this model in different contexts and with different populations will be able to bring new evidence towards the utility of the model and help perfect its procedures. This concern for training describes also the paper by Lebuda, Wisniewska and Galewska-Kustra (this issue). Returning to the Polish setting, this article reports interesting data about the professional experiences and perspectives of creativity educators who graduated from a 'Psychopedagogy of Creativity' programme (Karwowski, Gralewski, Lebuda, & Wisniewska, 2007). This specialisation is rare in Poland but also at an international level and the article gives a detailed account of what graduates cover and expect to do after they finish their studies. Conclusions from this research point to a series of difficulties faced by these new professionals on the job market but also give us reasons to hope. It is clear that, in this country as well as Eastern and Central Europe more generally, efforts need to be made to argue for the importance of creativity and creativity educators and their vital educational and societal role.


This special issue, as seen from above, covers at least three important themes and showcases research from a series of different Eastern and Central European countries using a variety of methodologies, from surveys to psychobiography. It stands as a testimony for the growing interest in creativity in this part of the world and also for the valuable insights creativity research worldwide can take when focusing on this geo-cultural location. Studies of implicit theories and creativity enhancement programmes are not unique only to this context, however, the ways in which the authors approach them and the widespread concern for social and cultural variables sets these investigations apart at least from more mainstream, 'Western' psychology. A focus on culture is not gratuitous as many scholars today realise (Lubart, 1999; Simonton, 2003) and it is perhaps here where Eastern researchers have the greatest contribution to make. This is because Eastern and Central Europe is not only a place with a rich and diverse cultural heritage but also a space in which people understand the importance of living within a society and a culture and trying to preserve and transform them, 'from within', in ways that both reflect and support creative expression.

Preparation of this special issue was possible thanks to the warm reaction of James C. Kaufman and the whole editorial board. We would like to express our gratitude to all editorial board members who served as peer reviewers during the submission and review process as well as to several ad hoc reviewers who helped us and the authors improve their articles. The full list of reviewers is attached at the end of this issue. Finally we would like to thank the authors who responded to our call and invite readers to engage with these contributions and discover creativity as it is seen from Eastern and Central Europe.

Vlad Petre Glaveanu

Aalborg University, Denmark

Maciej Karwowski

Academy of Special Education, Poland

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Maciej Karwowski, Academy of Special Education, Creative Education Lab, Szczesliwicka St, 40, 02353 Warsaw, Poland. E-mail: or to Vlad Glaveanu, Department of Communication and Psychology, Aalborg University, Kroghstrade 3, 9220 Aalborg, Denmark, E-mail:


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Author:Glaveanu, Vlad Petre; Karwowski, Maciej
Publication:The International Journal of Creativity and Problem Solving
Date:Apr 1, 2013
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