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Creativity and Motivational Orientation: The Psychology of Achieving Creative Potential

Posted Aug 23 2010 4:40pm

By guest author Alexis Bonari

The entity of creativity and the ways in which it is successfully brought to fruition have been studied extensively over a significant time period.

Even prior to the twentieth century, researchers were fascinated by the psychology of creativity and its manifestation in different individuals.

While much has been learned on the subject of cultivating creativity, most studies have been decontextualized, alienating external elements that contribute to the success of the creative process.

In a scholarly article by Beth Hennessey of Wellesley College, environmental effects on motivational orientation are assessed within the context of the creative process.

Motivational Orientation in Creativity

The term “motivational orientation” generally refers to an individual’s psychological position toward motivation.

While there are unique qualities that describe the creative motivation behind individual actions, there are many shared motivational traits that can help explain the drive to create.

What interested Hennessey was the idea that a one-time motivational offer of a prize could undermine intrinsic personal investment in creative efforts.

This was proven among preschoolers whose interest and success in creative drawing waned when a “Good Player Award” was introduced.

The significance of this finding is that the preschoolers were intrinsically motivated instead of being extrinsically driven.

So what motivates an intrinsically driven, creative individual?

Intrinsic Motivation, Creativity, and Personal Development

Curiosity or other forms of stimulation can drive an individual to participate consistently in a certain creative process that becomes a strong player in personal development.

Feelings that emanate from creative efforts can include self-efficacy, mastery, and competence, which can influence individuals to keep practicing a given creative process without outside rewards.

An especially powerful component of creative enjoyment is the feeling of playing rather than working.

Feeling free of outside control is a potent effect of internal motivation and drives creative individuals to maintain their interests and efforts.

Research has shown that extrinsic motivation is actually detrimental to the creative process and that the internal drive to create is often behind success stories.

Constructing an Environment that Nurtures Intrinsic Motivation

For creative individuals who want to work in an environment conducive to intrinsic motivation, the key idea is to eliminate extrinsic motivators.

There are five common types that consistently “kill” creative motivation: expected reward, expected evaluation, surveillance, time limits, and competition.

Eliminating these elements from the work environment would create a peaceful space free of distractions, nurturing creativity by bringing it out naturally.

Thus, for the creative worker, an environment and mindset that allow for organic growth of internal ideas can be the secret to motivational success.

Bio: Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She spends much of her days blogging about Education and CollegeScholarships . In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

Hennessey, Beth A. “ The Social Psychology of Creativity .” [PDF] Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research 47.3 (2003): 253-271.

creative mind, developing creativity, psychology of creativity, creative inspiration, creative expression, creative experience


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