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Western model of creativity: generalizability and hypothetical educational consequences for the "non-Western world".

Culture plays an important role in the way people perceive reality (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). The perception of creativity is also culturally determined (Lubart, 1990; Rudowicz, 2003). Within the frame widely defined as "the Western culture"--individualistic, liberal, and characterized by tolerance and appreciation of freedom and self-expression--there is a social conviction that creativity is associated with independence and nonconformity, as well as the production of new and original creations (Rudowicz, 2003). This view, typical not just for implicit theories, but also for scholarly ones, in fact means the appreciation of an innovative style of creating (Kirton, 1976) and--as a result--a possible depreciation of forms of creative functioning associated with cooperation, evolutional and methodical work. These forms are based not on the radical rejection of the paradigm, but on its improvement--as habitual creativity (Glaveanu, 2011) or less revolutionary creations (Sternberg, Kaufman, & Pretz, 2002). Creativity might be employed by different individual styles, and people who prefer various styles of creation may need diverse types of stimulation.


The "individualistic" understanding of creativity is associated with nonconformity, appreciation of newness, and originality (Rudowicz, 2003). Large international comparative studies and results of research into implicit theories of creativity indicate that social and cultural determinants affect this type of perception. A significant issue is also represented by the relationship between implicit and scholarly theories. Explicit theories stem, in part, from scholars' implicit theories of the construct under investigation (Sternberg, 1985). When it comes to implicit theories of creativity, Karwowski (2007) suggests that there is no objective "prototype" of creativity. Hence, one can only talk about some convictions presented by scientists and by laypersons. It may be assumed that culturally conditioned beliefs about creativity manifest themselves in not just common opinions, but scholarly discourse as well.

Results show (Hofstede & Hofstede, 2005) that the United States, Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, Hungary, Holland and New Zealand are the countries which are characterized by the highest level of individualism. Holland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United States and Great Britain are also located on the side of self-expression values: freedom, interpersonal trust, tolerance of out-groups (Inglehart & Baker, 2001). Socializing practices in individualistic societies of the West are directed towards maintaining independence and self-determination; upholding a sense of autonomy rather than conforming to the demands of social groups. Socialization in collectivist societies runs along a different course--it is associated more with obedience, duty, cooperation, compromise, and sacrifice for the in-group (Rudowicz, 2003). In Eastern societies, like China, individual exists as a member of wide community. In contrast, in Western societies, like the United States, the emphasis is placed on distinguishing oneself from others (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). The differences mentioned above seem to be the consequence of key dimension individualism-collectivism and they are important for the way in which people understand creativity (see Rudowicz, 2003; Rudowicz & Hui, 1997). As Rudowicz notes (2003, p. 276):

"The definition of creativity embracing novelty and originality fits perfectly with the North American belief system based on the ideals of individuality, democracy and freedom. In contrast, Eastern societies firmly grounded in the ideals of interdependence, collectivity, cooperation and authoritarianism have developed a different perspective on the meaning inherent to novelty and originality".

The differences mentioned above are obviously related to a collective level: one can't talk here about the experience of every individual from these two types of culture.

Studies of Western implicit theories of creativity (Fleith, 2000; Gluck, Ernst, & Unger, 2002; Sternberg, 1985; Westby & Dawson, 1995) demonstrate that traits most often associated with creativity are also markers of individualism (e.g. free-spirit, nonconformity, questioning social norms, love of solitude, ability to express oneself and create one's own style, confidence, decisiveness and individualism). Even though comparing common perceptions of the creativity among representatives of the Western culture with the perceptions of persons from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan (Rudowicz & Hui, 1997; Rudowicz & Yue, 2000) or India (Runco & Johnson, 2002) does not reveal dramatic differences, it does seem that some characteristics presented in Eastern countries have a lot to do with collectivism. The conviction noted among Chinese respondents is that a creative person makes a contribution to social development (Rudowicz & Hui, 1997) or that politicians, not scholars, inventors, or artists, are considered to be the most creative people in society (Yue & Rudowicz, 2002). As Tokarz and colleagues (2004) point out, the cognitive features of creative person, enumerated by Chinese people, are wisdom and logical thinking. Wong and Siu (2010) suggest that diligence--noticed in Hong Kong results--is perceived as connected with creativity, because in China this trait is emphasized as a virtue. "Artistic"--a term so present in Western implicit theories--is less frequently indicated as a characteristic of a creative person in China (Rudowicz & Hui, 1997). Chinese people, by comparison to Americans, present lower levels of artistic creativity (Niu & Sternberg, 2001). These results suggest that creativity in the East is understood differently than in Western cultures: in the former, the term "creator" does not inscribe itself within the romantic model of an artist, but means someone who--instead of caring for artistic expression--contributes to building the social order.

If the Western and Eastern perception of creativity are considered consistent with Kirton's (1976) adaption-innovation (AI) theory, it may be stated that whereas the Eastern way of comprehending creativity corresponds more with adaption, the Western perspective could be related to innovation. The first style is associated with conformity, dependence, submissiveness to social influences and authority, in addition to sensitivity to other people which makes it possible to maintain group coherence and cooperation. The second means an inclination towards taking up various tasks, as well as questioning rules and disregarding predecessor achievements. Other theoretical models, also in line with the notion of the qualitative characteristics of creativity (style), indicate the fact that creativity may be described as a continuum whose one extreme means activity associated with non-conformism, paradigm rejection, whereas the other is associated with readiness to cooperate and development of the existing paradigm (Galenson, 2009; Kirton, 1976; Nijstad et al., 2010; Sternberg et al., 2002). If we perceived the ends of this continuum in a more dichotomous way--as two opposite types--it would come to pass that this observation corresponds with the results of Kim's (2006) study, which indicate that creativity measured by TTCT may be described in terms of two factors (1). The factor of innovation is loaded by fluency and originality, whereas the factor of adaptativeness is loaded by elaboration and abstractness of titles. So, creativity manifests itself as a phenomenon associated with two diverse types of activity, each of which leads to possibly new and valuable products. In other words, aside from revolutionary creativity, there is also this creative activity which is based on evolutionary work and is associated with solution perfection and finalization (Gilson & Madjar, 2011; Glaveanu, 2012).

Even though authors who deal with creativity realize the existence of the dimension outlined above, the Western perspective refers primarily to the understanding of creativity as a more revolutionary phenomenon, which in turn is associated mainly with independence and generating ideas. An overview of research instruments confirms this claim. Wallach and Kogan's (1965) Creativity Tests (WKCT) are assessed via fluency and originality: hence, creativity is understood mainly as a generation of the largest possible number of original ideas--elaboration is much less important in light of this perspective. Gough's (1979) Creative Personality Scale considers originality, unconventionality, and individualism to be positively associated with creativity. Conversely, conventionality and conservatism are considered to be the traits which negatively correlate with creativity. An interesting example is Test for Creative Thinking--Drawing Production (Urban, 1996), where one of the assessments' criteria is a sense of humor--a characteristic unique for Northern America, but not for collectivist cultures (Rudowicz, 2003). Examples mentioned above allow us to suggest that, at the basic level of the construction of popular research instruments, there is a "Western model of creativity" at work which is related rather to paradigm-rejecting than paradigm-preserving styles of creation.


Post-communist countries are situated on the side of secular-rational values associated with independence and liberalism (Inglehart & Baker, 2001). However, it is noteworthy that, unlike the majority of most post-communist countries, Poland is a society which places importance on traditional values, with religion, the nation, and respect for authority all playing a significant role. Post-communist countries, including Poland, are also placed on the side of survival values, assuming economic and physical security, intolerance of strangers, and carefulness about trusting people (Inglehart & Baker, 2001). However, the attitude of Polish people towards foreign groups is interwoven with a commitment towards the equality of all people, as opposed to discriminating against certain groups (Social Diagnosis, 2011). By comparison to European countries, Poland achieved one of the highest recognition rates for conservative values (Schwartz & Bardi, 1997). For Polish people, the most significant values are associated with family, namely successful marriage and children. Freedom and strength of character are in the lowest position (Social Diagnosis, 2011; see also Urban, 2008). When it comes to Hofstede's dimensions (Hofstede & Hofstede, 2005), Poland occupies 27-29 place (2) on the power distance index, which should be considered high power distance. Moreover, Polish culture appears to be very masculine (formulating stereotypical convictions about gender roles), characterized by a very high level of uncertainty avoidance, and oriented towards caring virtues associated with the past, respecting tradition and social commitments. Czapinski (2005) notes that Poles have a high level of risk aversion. Poland's 22-24 place with regards to individualism, requires one to conclude that Polish society leans towards individualism (Hofstede & Hofstede, 2005). As we see in other researches (Urban, 2008), individualistic and collectivistic beliefs coexist in the minds of Polish youth, but there is a tendency to move towards the individualistic dimension. Hence, on the one hand, Poland may be perceived as a traditional and conservative society and, on the other, as more individualistic than collectivist.

Polish studies of implicit theories of creativity bring an image which is quite coherent with the results observed in the Western culture. Such terms as: being open to newness, producing new ideas, being original, believing in one's own capabilities, artistic type, etc. appear in association with creativity (Pufal-Struzik, 2006; Szen-Ziemianska, this issue; Tokarz & Slabosz, 2001). However, the fact that Polish respondents quite frequently accentuate the intellectual characteristics of a creative person is also interesting (Karwowski, 2009a, 2009b, 2010; Pufal-Struzik, 2006; Szen-Ziemianska, this issue). Karwowski (2009a, 2009b, 2010) notes that perceived creative individuals are the ones mainly characterized by the developed intellectual abilities. The traditional and conservative values of Poles, directed at survival and hard work, could have something in common with the emphasis placed on intellectual traits and the need to intensively develop them--in accordance with the popular Polish saying: "Learn, learn, because learning is the key to power." It is possible that Poles are also convinced that creative dispositions are mainly associated with a well-shaped and aptly functioning intellect--a characteristic which is conducive to survival and maintaining tradition.

The assumption that the creative functioning of Poles may be conditioned by the cultural specificity of Polish society is not especially evident in the area of Polish scholarly (explicit) theories of creativity. To a large extent, these theories perpetuate the Western model by associating creativity mainly with individualism, independence, as well as newness and originality (Gralewski, 2008). In all probability, the most evident example of this type of perception can be found in the construction of the Creative Attitude Questionnaire (Popek, 2000). This is the Polish measurement constructed as the answer for the lack of foreign tools that could measure the whole sphere of creative personality. It measures creative attitudes, which are characterized by independence, originality, dominance, spontaneity, expression, high self-esteem, individual learning, or artistic aptitudes. On the other hand, the imitative attitude is characterized by submissiveness, dependence, low self-esteem, and lack of artistic and technical inventiveness (Popek, 2000). If those characteristics were to be interpreted through the lens of Kirton's (1976) theory or Glaveanu's (2012) remarks, it may be said that some of the attributes which are characteristic for the 'imitative attitude' are close to the adaptive or habitual way of creation, but not to the low level of creativity (Karwowski & Gralewski, in press). The 'creative attitude', with some features of innovator (Kirton, 1976), which are presented here together, suggest that creativity is understood as paradigm-rejection.


Pedagogical activities which aim at developing creative dispositions are based on a specific understanding of creativity. It seems likely that Western scholars and practitioners who develop and run creativity training are convinced that there is a need to develop traits corresponding with the characteristics of the Kirtonian innovator or Galensonian finder (Galenson, 2009; Kirton, 1976). For example, fostering creativity in the culture of the United States, according to Lubart (1990), is related with glorifying self-sufficiency, individualism and risk-taking.

The results of metaanalyses, dedicated mainly to the Western trainings of creativity, (Scott, Leritz, & Mumford, 2004a, 2004b), confirm these deductions. Examining the impact of creativity training on various aspects of divergent thinking reveals that little attention is attached to elaboration. This aspect is examined quite rarely (only 16 effects). What is more, when considering elaboration, one observes the lowest effectiveness. Comparing the types of creativity trainings delivers similar data. Analysis shows that the most developed cognitive process is idea generation. Moreover, as much as 10 out of 11 comparative training types develop processes close to the innovative style (Kirton, 1976), or the innovative factor (Kim, 2006), such as: problem identification, information gathering, concept selection, conceptual combination and the generation idea (Scott, Leritz, & Mumford, 2004b). Seven types of training develop processes that are nearer to adaption (Kim, 2006; Kirton, 1976): elaboration, idea evaluation, implementation planning and solution monitoring (Scott, Leritz, & Mumford, 2004b). Based on these results, one can therefore observe a tendency favoring the development of innovative dispositions rather than adaptive ones.

The programs of developing creativity typical for collectivist cultures seem to have somewhat diverging characteristics. For example in The Chinese University Creative Leadership Training Program (Chan, 2003), the creative thinking and problem solving are put into one module, while the other modules are: becoming a successful leader, communication skills and public speaking, leadership skills and group dynamics, peer support and school activities. Therefore, the development of creativity is clearly correlated with leadership and social competences. That corresponds with the "collectivist" way of understanding of creativity (Rudowicz & Hui, 1997; Yue & Rudowicz, 2002), which is close to the adaptive tendencies for cooperation. Moreover, it is worthy of note that in the traditional Chinese model of arts' graphic design education, there is a noticeably strong emphasis on elaboration: outcomes should be highly finished and visually beautiful (Dineen & Niu, 2008).

In the Polish practice of developing creative dispositions, one may notice tendencies perpetuating the "Western" approach. This is perhaps accountable to the fact that Polish scholars are influenced by Western theories. When describing a general model of the training of creativity, Szmidt (2007), the author of a popular manual on this topic, lists exercises for perceiving problems and producing new and original creations. Similar elements may be found in one of the most popular Polish theoretical concepts of creativity training, described as cognitive training (Necka, Orzechowski, Slabosz, & Szymura, 2005). Some of the results obtained by Lewandowska (2010), show that the training associated with this concept is more effective for innovators than adaptors (Kirton, 1976).

However, it is possible that, due to their cultural specificity, Poles prefer to combine paradigm-rejecting and paradigm-preserving styles of creativity. As results of the European Social Survey (2010) show, in comparison to other European nations, Poles occupy only the 17th location with respect to the importance of generating new ideas and becoming creative. Being individualistically oriented, they may reveal some tendency to be independent and reject the existing paradigm. Yet, it is traditionalists and conservatives who appreciate survival and group coherence (Inglehart & Baker, 2001; Hofstede & Hofstede, 2005; Schwartz & Bardi, 1997; Social Diagnosis, 2011), avoid risk (Czapinski, 2005; Hofstede & Hofstede, 2005) and are not too convinced as to the value of producing new ideas (ESS, 2010). The results of the research devoted to conditions that influence the creativity of Polish people (Nalaskowski, 1998) expose a positive function of the small town climate. One can say that it is something in-between big city anonymity, individualism and the "collectivist" climate, which is emphasized when considering small villages. It is also possible that, on the level of culture, Polish people prefer a creative functioning which is more balanced between different styles.

Some results confirm these prepositions. A metaanalysis of Polish creativity trainings (Wisniewska & Karwowski, 2007) demonstrates that training of the imagination based on artistic stimulation--strongly devoted to developing elaboration--is the most effective among several other attempts (Glass's [DELTA] = 1.52). In this training participants were asked to draw pictures and improve some fragments of works. Topics were given, all of which were focused on developing a creative imagination (Limont, 1994). These results (Wisniewska & Karwowski, 2007) also show that creative problem solving trainings are very effective (Glass's [DELTA] = 1.42). In this type of training, participants not only identify a problem or generate ideas, but they usually also evaluate and elaborate solutions. Although the "Western model of creativity" exerts a strong influence on the theoretical and methodical aspects of the Polish pedagogy of creativity, the most effective way of developing creativity seems to be more balanced in terms of different styles. It is possible that this is precisely the reason why in the Polish context the most effective training sessions are those which combine both ways of practicing creativity; they match the Poles' culturally conditioned preferences best. Hence, the Western approach to developing creativity in some conditions may be of low effect. It seems that the development of creative dispositions should be dependent on cultural context.


Perceptions of creativity in individualistic cultures largely correspond to the characteristics of innovators (Kirton, 1976) and are associated more with nonconformity, independence and originality than with cooperation, elaboration and interdependence. The roots of these perceptions should be sought on the map of cultural diversities (Inglehart & Baker, 2001; Hofstede & Hofstede, 2005), especially in relation to the dimension of collectivism-individualism (Hofstede & Hofstede, 2005; Rudowicz, 2003; Rudowicz & Hui, 1997). The practice of developing creativity is obviously ascribed to such an understanding. As a result, creativity training based on "Western model" is more conducive to developing dispositions associated with creating a large number of original solutions than with elaborating them (Scott, Leritz, & Mumford, 2004a; 2004b). A pedagogy based on similar understandings of creativity is also formulated by Polish creativity trainings' authors (Nccka et al, 2005; Szmidt, 2007). Results from studies evaluating the development of creative dispositions (Wisniewska & Karwowski, 2007) indicate, however, that in Poland trainings which develop dispositions associated with both adaptive and innovative ways of creative functioning are most effective. As we assumed here, this may be associated with the specific position of Poland on the map of cultures.

The limitations of reasoning introduced here concern the fact that the description of a "Western model" is somewhat selective and focused on highlighting those characteristics which seem to indicate a specific way of understanding creativity. It is especially challenging to compare results of studies into implicit theories of creativity conducted in various ways and in many cultural contexts.

The overview presented in this paper leads us to two final assumptions. The first refers to the relation between the "Western" way of comprehending creativity and the everyday practice of developing it. As creativity trainings are constructed and conducted in a way which reflects mainly the needs of innovators (Kirton, 1976), they have a greater chance of developing their creative potential. Those individuals who are predisposed towards interdependence, cooperation, and elaboration may be deprived of such opportunities. The second preposition assumes a discrepancy between the Polish attitude towards developing creativity, and the way Poles perceive creativity and function creatively. As we argued, this finding may stem from both: the cultural specificity of the Polish society (i.e. balance between individualism and collectivism) and from implicit theories of creativity within the Polish society.

To test both these assumptions further empirical studies are needed. As they are deducted from different sources and studies, they are also highly speculative in nature. Testing the effectiveness of the creativity training in a relation to the style preferring by participants would be especially fruitful. Considering the suggestion that Poles are characterized by a certain specificity of creative functioning, it could also be a valuable to undertake an intercultural comparison of the overall effectiveness of creativity trainings.

In the light of assumptions presented in this paper, it seems to be very important to adapt the way of describing and conducting creativity trainings to various styles of people's creative functioning.

Bartlomiej Nowacki

Academy of Special Education, Poland

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Bartlomiej Nowacki, Department of Educational Sciences, Academy of Special Education, Szczesliwicka St., 40, 02-353 Warsaw, Poland.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to Professor Maciej Karwowski for his assistance in preparing this paper. I also thank Professor Vlad Petre Glaveanu for his valuable suggestions.


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(1) I thank Vlad Glaveanu for his suggestion that there is difference between these two approaches to the description of creativity.

(2) Such description means that Poland occupies 27 place ex aequo with two other countries.
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Author:Nowacki, Bartlomiej
Publication:The International Journal of Creativity and Problem Solving
Date:Apr 1, 2013
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