Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology



First Advisor

Janet M. Kulberg


This investigation examines the relevance of Piagetian theory for understanding creativity. Selected studies of creativity using a variety of methodologies and deriving from diverse theoretical orientations are reviewed with the purpose of demonstrating a common link among seemingly unrelated investigations, namely, their congruence with a Piagetian theory of creativity.

Three subtopic areas are considered in more detail: attention deployment of creatives, similarities and differences between creatives and schizophrenics, and Kuhn's theory of scientific revolutions. An attempt is made to relate the findings from each of these areas to a Piagetian perspective on creativity.

Subjects were 104 undergraduate student. A tachistoscopic-type word recognition task was developed in an attempt to operationalize the Piagetian constructs of assimilation and accommodation. Recognizing words from a designated scheme served as an operational measure of assimilation. Recognizing words related to the scheme, and unrelate d words, served as measures of moderate and extensive accommodation, respectively.

Words were presented under three instructional sets: Equal, Primary, and Exclusive attention conditions. Instructions related to the proportion of attention subjects were directed to give Scheme vs. Unrelated words. Subjects also completed 30 trials of the Muller-Lyerillusion. The decrement in the effects of the illusion over trials was used as an additional measure of accommodation. Creativity was assessed using the Wallach-Kogan tasks.

Creativity scores were associated with the number of Unrelated words recognized under both the Primary and Exclusive instructional conditions. No relationship was found between creativity and the recognition of any of the word-types under the Equal attention condition. Under the Exclusive condition, high-creatives also recognized more Scheme words than did low creatives. Related words acted as a suppressor variable under Exclusive and Primary conditions, increasing the predictive power of the Unrelated words. The suppressor effects suggest creatives may be characterized by high levels of attention toward significant discrepancies with expectations and comparatively low levels of attention to moderate discrepancies. Performance on the Muller-Lyer was unrelated to either creativity or the attention deployment measures.

Results are seen as offering support for a relationship between creativity and incidental learning, and for the Piagetian view that creativity is related to an ability to accommodate to stimuli discrepant with one's expectations. Results are inconsistent with the hypothesis that high-creatives are characterized by greater attentional capacity than low-creatives.

Implications of the relationship between creativity and accommodation to anomaly are discussed in relation to the course of scientific progress. Modifications of the experimental design which might further explicate the process by which high-creatives accommodate to discrepant events are discussed.

Diss_McAllister_Joseph_1985.txt (200 kB)
text file of dissertation



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