Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published (as Chapter 8) in Handbook of Creativity, edited by John A. Glover, Royce R. Ronning, and Cecil R. Reynolds (New York & London: Plenum Press, 1989), pp. 147-162. Copyright © 1989 Plenum Press (Springer). Used by permission.


Informal thought about the nature of mental operations important to creative human behavior suggests that perceptual processes are of considerable importance. The ability to “see relationships among elements” is an attribution commonly made toward authors of major scientific discoveries or of noteworthy artistic achievements. For example, Shepard (1978, 1981) documented self-reports from several creative scientists and authors that strongly emphasize the role of visual imagery and the manipulation of visual codes in the creative process.

Given the anecdotal and self-report evidence for a relationship between creative behavior and aspects of perceptual processing, it initially may seem surprising that there is a notable void in either research or theoretical articles specifically focused on these issues. In preparing this chapter, for example, we noted that, during the last six volumes of the Journal of Creative Behavior, there was only one title that included the word perception, and that paper (Goodman & Marquart, 1978) was limited to a one-page abstract. In addition, we noted that among seven current textbooks in perception that presently reside on our bookshelves, none contain the term creativity in their indexes, nor is the term creative ability addressed at any point in the texts. Although references to the term perception occasionally can be found in indexes of monographs specifically dealing with the topic of creativity, most of these references refer to research related to specific theories about individual differences in perceptual styles or processing modes, as opposed to broader contemporary issues of perceptual processing. Clearly, most researchers in the field of perception have not touched upon the topic of creativity, and relatively few researchers in creativity have chosen to integrate their work with perceptual issues.