Presentation on theme: "The Impossible as a Stimulator of Creativity in Children Eugene Subbotsky Reader in Developmental Psychology (emeritus) Lancaster University, Lancaster,"— Presentation transcript:
The Impossible as a Stimulator of Creativity in Children Eugene Subbotsky Reader in Developmental Psychology (emeritus) Lancaster University, Lancaster, Great Britain
Acknowledgements Clare Hysted and Nicola Jones Lancaster University, UK
Abstract The study reported in this presentation showed that exposing children to a movie with the impossible, fantastical creatures and events facilitates their creativity in realistic thinking to a significantly larger extent, than exposing the children to the movie with equally interesting and exiting, but ordinary creatures and events. This study implies that movies and books with fantastical content can be an important source of enhancing creativity.
The tool less ordinary One of multiple functions of tools, such as a hammer or language, is action amplification through mediation. Tools are used by both humans and animals. There is, however, a kind of tool-mediators which is specific to humans. This kind of tools is images of creatures or events, which are impossible.
Impossible entities By impossible entities and events (the impossibles: IPs) I refer to the entities and events that exist in the imagination, but not in reality. Examples: building a castle by a magic spell, flying horses, gods that can read human minds and feed on the fumes from sacrificed animals
Contrasting possible entities By contrasting possible entities (contrasting possibles: CPs) I understand the exact opposite to the IPs – the creatures or events that can exist both in imagination and in reality. For instance, for the IP such as “an apple flying upwards by itself” the CP is “an apple falling down on earth”, for the IP such as “a half man-half horse” the CP is “a man” and “a horse”.
The problem Are IPs more efficient facilitators of children’s learning than CPs? For example, is it more effective to help children understand and remember the law of gravity by showing them an image of an apple, which is lifting up in the air by itself, or by showing them an apple falling down on earth?
Hypothesis 1: images of bodies falling down on earth should work better than images of non- flying bodies that are spontaneously lifting themselves up in the air. Reason: the bodies falling down on earth are a part of children’s everyday experience, whereas the non-flying bodies moving up in the air by themselves are not.
Hypothesis 2: images of non-flying bodies lifting themselves up in the air should work better than images of the bodies falling down on earth Reason: the CP exists only as a single image (i.e. an image of a horse). In contrast, the IP exists as a paired image: whenever people process the IP in their imagination (i.e., a winged horse), they become aware that such an entity is impossible and this, with necessity, brings an images of the CPs (a horse and a bird) into the focus of their minds.
Implication Implication The attention grabbing capacity of IPs should be greater than the attention grabbing capacity of CPs because when the IP is being processed in the mind, its attention grabbing capacity is added to by the attention grabbing capacity of the CP.
The study Aimed to compare the facilitating impact of IPs and CPs on children’s creative thinking. Creative thinking is the ability to generate “novel behavior that meets a standard of quality and/or utility” (Eisenberger, Haskins, & Gambleton, 1999).
Thinking about the IPs Provides non-trivial novel solutions to common problems (i.e., one can move from one place to another faster by riding a dragon than by riding a horse).
Implication The common features of thinking about the IP and creative thinking – novelty and non-triviality. Engaging children in one of these activities -- thinking about the IP -- might enhance the other activity—creative thinking. Mechanism - priming or (and) association.
Hypothesis Exposure to cinema and TV affects children’s subsequent thinking (Singer & Singer, 2001). Exposing children to a movie with impossible entities and events would facilitate their creative thinking to a larger extent than exposing the children a film with equally attractive but possible entities and events.
EXPERIMENT 1 British 4- and 6-yr.-old children were shown a film (based on the Harry Potter series) with either IP or CP entities. Torrance’s ‘Thinking Creatively in Action and Movement’ (TCAM) test was used to measure children’s capacity to show creativity (Torrance, 1981). Another test used for assessing creativity was the test of drawing nonexistent (impossible) items (Karmiloff-Smith, 1989).
Experimental groupControl group Pre-tests Exposure to the films Post-tests
Results After, but not before exposure to the films, the children who watched the film with IPs showed significantly higher creativity than those who watched the film with CPs.
Scores on TCAM by children, who watched the film with impossible (black bars) and possible (grey bars) entities
EXPERIMENT 2 (1) To replicate Experiment 1 results, with 6- and 8-yr.-old children, and with a different experimenter doing the experiment, (2) To examine whether exposure to the film with the IP entities, along with increasing children’s creativity, also increases their beliefs in that IP are real
Results Experiment 2 successfully replicated results of Experiment 1. Interestingly, exposing children to a film with the IP entities did not affect their beliefs about the IP entities’ reality.
Conclusions Conclusions Exposing children to the impossible entities and events increases the children’s creativity to a larger extent, than exposing children to the contrasting possible entities and events. Rather than being a mere byproduct of cognitive development that can occasionally be used for entertainment, thinking of the impossible can be viewed as a resource for boosting creativity in children.