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The Person, the Product, and the Response: Conceptual Problems in the Assessment of Creativity

Jackson, Philip W.; Messick, Samuel J.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
National Institute of Mental Health, United States Public Health Service (USPHS), Cognitive Style, Creativity Tests, Intelligence, Measures (Individuals), Testing Problems


An attempt is made here to arrive at a workable definition of creativity--i.e. criteria of creativity--including the response properties of creativity, the judgmental standards against which the responses are measured, the aesthetic responses evoked by the creativity, and the predisposing cognitive styles associated with creative people. Beyond being unusual or unique, creative products must be appropriate, both internally (psychologically) and externally (logically), and transform the constraints of reality (i.e. create a new perspective on it) in some way that evokes a reflective response from the viewers. A fourth criterion is condensation--i.e. durability of interest, the quality that warrants "close and repeated examination" from the viewer, "an intensity and a concentration of meaning requiring continued contemplation." These four criteria--unusualness, appropriateness, transformation and condensation--in this order, are progressively more complex and also ordered with respect to developmental interdependence. Personal qualities and cognitive style are then considered in relation to creativity and a relation between personal qualities and the properties of the creative response is suggested: The person who consistently produces unusual responses is considered original. The person most likely to produce appropriate responses is highly sensitive to his environment. Personal qualities that seem to contribute to the production of transformations are both cognitive and non- cognitive, but in both cases characterized by flexibility--open mindedness and willingness to expose attitudes that violate tradition. Just as condensation may often contain a paradoxical union of simplicity and complexity, so does the production of condensation call for a fusing of contradictory personal qualities--a fusing of personal and universal concerns, or of thought and feeling, a blending of periods of spontaneity and energy with periods of reflection. The term chosen to best describe the personal qualities needed for condensation is "poetic." The personal qualities, response properties, judgmental standards and aesthetic responses evoked by creativity are summarized in a table. (JGL)

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