A model of scientists' creative potential: The matching of cognitive structure and domain structure

Philosophical Psychology 6 (1):23 – 37 (1993)
Findlay and Lumsden have proposed a model of creative potential which accounts for divergent thinking but not for convergent thinking. This limitation impedes the applicability of the model to scientific creativity, where competence and thus convergent thinking play a fundamental role since the early stages of creation. This limitation is a natural consequence of the fact that Findlay and Lumsden's model is purely intrapsychic. This paper proposes a model of scientists' creative potential which accounts for both divergent and convergent processes. First, drawing from Csikszentmihalyi's and Kuhn's theories, scientists' creative potential is defined as a matching between the cognitive structure and the epistemic and social structure of the domain. Second, based on this sociopsychological definition, an extension of Findlay and Lumsden's model is proposed. The model states that the highest creative potential is achieved by those scientists who deeply understand the core of the domain and still have cognitive power to access, and experiment on many ideas that are not presently included in the domain. The new model is shown to have greater explanatory power than Findlay and Lumsden's model and to include the latter as a limiting case.
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