Generativity Theory

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Generativity Theory is a formal, predictive theory of creative behavior in individuals . First proposed by American psychologist Robert Epstein in the early 1980s, the theory asserts that novel behavior is the result of a dynamic interaction among previously established behaviors; in other words, new ideas result from interconnections among old ones.

Generativity Theory Suggests That creativity is a skill That Can Be Learned, [1] and SPECIFIED Strategies That Increase creativity and innovation : Challenging, Broadening, Surrounding and Capturing. [2]

The theory asserts that the process of interconnection is both orderly and predictable. In a series of studies with animals and people, Epstein showed that Generativity Theory, a series of equations called “transformation functions” and instantiated in a computer model, could be used to predict novel, creative behavior moment-to-moment in time in both animals and people under controlled laboratory conditions. Computer modelsEpstein calls a “probability profile”. He also developed a new graphical technique called a “frequency profile”, which demonstrates the orderliness of actual novel performances. The curves of a frequency profile can be predicted by Epstein’s equations.

Epstein’s research and theoretical work on this topic Were Summarized in a series of studies published in prestigious journals Such As Science , The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , and Psychological Science . Perhaps the most famous study in this series was a pigeon study called “Insight in the Pigeon: Antecedents and Determinants of an Intelligent Performance,” published in the British journal Nature in 1984. [3] In this study, Epstein and his colleagues showed: (a) that pigeons that had been taught appropriate minimum component behaviors could solve the classic box-and- bananaproblem, first studied by the German psychologist Wolfgang Köhler in the early 1900s; (b) varying degrees of different pigeons; and (c) the emergence of novel behavior in this situation was orderly and predictable.

A number of his articles on this topic were collected in 1996 in a book called Cognition, Creativity, and Behavior . [4] Over the years, Generativity Theory has been developed to a new competency-based technology for enhanced creativity in both individuals and groups, summarized in an extensive review in the Encyclopedia of Creativity , [5] in Epstein’s book The Big Book of Creativity Games , [6] in a 2008 study published in the Creativity Research Journal , [7] and in Articles in Psychology Today , Scientific American Mind , and elsewhere.


  1. Jump up^ Corbett, Rod. Creativity in the Workplace, Sept 16 2012
  2. Jump up^ Cutts, Nicole,Diversity of Thought: What Is It and How Do You Leverage It?[ Walter Kaitz Foundation website], Retrieved Dec 15 2012
  3. Jump up^ (Epstein et al., 1984)
  4. Jump up^ (Epstein, 1996)
  5. Jump up^ (Epstein, 1999)
  6. Jump up^ (Epstein, 2000)
  7. Jump up^ (Epstein et al., 2008)


  • Epstein, R .; Kirshnit, CE; Lanza, RP; Rubin, LC (1984). ” ” Insight “in the Pigeon: Antecedents and Determinants of an Intelligent Performance”. Nature . 308 (5954): 61-62. PMID  6700713 . doi : 10.1038 / 308061a0 .
  • Epstein, R. (1996). Cognition, Creativity, and Behavior: Selected Essays . Praeger.
  • Epstein, R. (2000). The Big Book of Creativity Games . McGraw-Hill.
  • Epstein, R. (1999). “Generativity Theory”. In Runco, MA; Pritzker, S. Encyclopedia of Creativity . Academic Press.
  • Epstein, R .; Schmidt, SM; Warfel, R. (2008). “Measuring and Training Creativity Competencies: Validation of a New Test”. Creativity Research Journal . 20 : 7-12. doi : 10.1080 / 10400410701839876 .


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