Cognitive Thinking: Creativity, Brainstorming and Convergent & Divergent Thinking

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  • 0:12 Introduction
  • 1:10 Divergent vs.…
  • 2:42 Creativity and Intelligence
  • 5:27 Brainstorming
  • 6:27 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Wind Goodfriend

Wind has her PhD in Social Psychology and Master's in Social Psychology from Purdue University.

Expert Contributor
Lesley Chapel

Lesley has taught American and World History at the university level for the past seven years. She has a Master's degree in History.

Creativity is useful in almost any situation, but how is creativity defined? This lesson covers the definition of creativity and discusses how creativity requires several different types of thinking, including divergent thinking and synthetic, analytic, and practical intelligence. This lesson also defines and describes brainstorming.

What is Creativity?

Imagine you're in a high school physics class and your teacher has given you an extra-credit assignment: you must create a structure that will hold an egg that can be dropped 15 feet without breaking the egg. What kind of structure could you build? How about a wooden box filled with straw, or maybe a cotton pillow with the egg sewed inside, or how about a plastic container filled with water? These are three different ideas that all might work better or worse; but to come up with the three ideas, you had to be creative. This lesson focuses on what creativity is and how it is related to different types of thinking.

Examples of creativity can be seen all around us
examples of creativity

The definition of creativity is the ability to come up with new, original, unique solutions to problems or ideas. We see creativity everywhere around us, such as in artist paintings, the design of buildings, or novels we read. Let's talk about what creativity really means.

Divergent vs. Convergent Thinking

When trying to solve any problem, there are two basic ways we can think about the possible solution. These two types of thinking are called convergent and divergent thinking.

Convergent thinking is the type of thinking we do when solving a well-defined, straightforward, correct answer to a problem. Convergent thinking is used when there is a simple, correct answer to a question. For example, what's the capital of England? The answer is London. If you knew the answer, you used convergent thinking. Creativity is not relevant to convergent thinking because you don't have to be creative to know the answer to this problem; all you have to do is come up with the stated, factual answer. When you're in school and you take a multiple-choice test you are probably using convergent thinking - you might be supplying definitions for terms or remembering a person's name that goes with a particular theory.

Taking multiple-choice tests typically involves using convergent thinking
convergent learning

In contrast, divergent thinking is the type of thinking we do when solving an abstract or new problem that has many possible answers, solutions, or outcomes. Remember the beginning of this lesson when you thought about how to make a structure to protect an egg from breaking? There are many possible structures you could make, so coming up with that solution required creativity, or divergent thinking. When you write a poem or story you have an endless supply of possible characters, words to use, and themes or events that might happen, so this creative process requires divergent thinking.

Creativity and Intelligence

While convergent thinking is straightforward and simple, divergent thinking is complex. It could be argued that some people are more creative than others. For example, Stephen King is a famous author of horror novels, and he's written about 50 different books. Shakespeare wrote 38 plays and over 150 sonnets, or short poems. These two authors are surely very creative! Some psychologists have argued that creativity is one type of intelligence.

Specifically, a famous psychologist named Robert Sternberg has argued that creativity requires three different types of intelligence. Sternberg's theory about different types of intelligence is popular in both educational psychology and cognitive psychology. Let's go through Sternberg's theory in regards to how it relates to creativity.

The psychologist Robert Sternberg argued that creativity requires three types of intelligence
Robert Sternberg

He says that first, creativity requires synthetic intelligence, which is the ability to see or analyze a problem in a new, unique way. Second, Sternberg says that creativity requires analytic intelligence, which is the ability to analyze the relationships or associations among ideas and then apply these associations to problems. Finally, Sternberg argues that creativity requires practical intelligence, which is the ability to come up with new ideas or ways of solving a problem based on the feedback of other people or by learning from past experience.

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Additional Activities

Writing Prompts For Cognitive Thinking: Creativity, Brainstorming, and Convergent and Divergent Thinking

Writing Prompt 1:

First, define creativity in three to five sentences. Next, look around your room or surroundings and make a list of at least ten examples of creativity surrounding you. Tip: The list is most useful when you describe why these examples fit the definition of creativity.

Essay Prompt 1:

Write an essay that explains synthetic intelligence, analytic intelligence, and practical intelligence, and why they are necessary to creativity. Provide examples of each type of intelligence and how it is applied. Tip: The more detailed your examples, the stronger your essay will be!

Essay Prompt 2:

Write an essay of at least three to five paragraphs about brainstorming. Define brainstorming, its purpose, and its requirements. Also describe what situations brainstorming is best suited for.

Essay Prompt 3:

Consider a current problem you have in your own life. It can be big or small. Compose an essay that describes how you can use creativity, and specifically, synthetic intelligence, analytic intelligence, and practical intelligence to help you solve the problem.

Graphic Prompt 1:

Create a graphic organizer that defines convergent thinking and divergent thinking, making sure to give examples of both.

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