Posted by Sponsored Post Posted on 27 April 2023

Get to know 4 types of creativity. Which ones are yours?!

Discover different ways to be creative, identify the ones which most apply to you, and learn how to improve

Innovation is one of humankind’s most extraordinary traits, and the ability to develop new concepts and ideas has driven society forward for millennia. But not everyone creates equally. Different types of creativity can be used in a number of ways, contexts and purposes. 

What is creativity?

Creativity is a characteristic which is innate to humans, whose traits can be observed in toddlers from a very young age. American psychologist Joy Paul Guilford, who studied the creative process of humans throughout his career, decided to conceptualize the creative process in a 1956 study. He coined the term “divergent thinking”, and its counterpart, “convergent thinking”. 


Convergent thinking occurs when people use logic, and gather data and facts, to try to get to the bottom of something, determine the truth, or find a practical solution for an issue. 


Divergent thinking, on the other hand, has fewer rules and works in a free-flowing pattern, where a stimulus can be used to speculate on multiple outcomes. 


Divergent thinking is spontaneous, and can pop into existence in one’s mind at any given moment. Guilford notes that this kind of mental state is linked to good humor, and the more people resort to it, the more joyful their lives appear to be. 

The two variables of creativity

Neuroscientist Arne Dietrich, who teaches psychology at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, proposes a deeper examination of Guilford’s “divergent thinking”. He states that, while “creativity” is an effective umbrella term, it can be dissected into four different types, defined by two variables.


Dietrich considers convergent thinking to be just as important as divergent thinking when considering the many ways in which one can be creative, leading to a “unified” theory of creativity. For Dietrich, logical thinking and a premeditated effort to try to piece together a puzzle could also be considered creative forces.


The first variable concerns intention. In the example where a thought pops into our head – often illustrated with a metaphorical lightbulb – this is “spontaneous” creativity. On the other hand, when the creative effort to come up with an idea is premeditated, this is referred to as “deliberate”.


The second variable takes a more neurological point of view. “Cognitive” creativity involves collating data, information and tangible details. Whereas “emotional” creativity relies on… emotion. 


These two variables lead to Dietrich’s four types of creativity. While they are distinct, everybody can use all four, and, perhaps more significantly, they can all be learnt and practiced. We all tend to have our own kind of creativity, but anyone can learn and improve, in all four areas.

The four types of creativity

Cognitive and Deliberate


This kind of creativity is widespread among scholars and inventors. It involves using a pre-existing body of knowledge and correlating information in new and innovative ways to make connections and discover new things from it. By nature, this type is essential for developing scientific knowledge. 


You can nurture this ability by focusing on a subject and trying to see new things among its minutiae, organizing what you know into a broad overview – like when you create your own flowchart and try to extract something fresh from it.

Emotional and Deliberate

This involves taking the time to wonder. When you’re having trouble finding a solution to a problem, for example, or thinking about a missing differential in a product you’re developing, consider different possibilities and paths that could lead to additional outcomes. One way to do this is to think without judgments or deadlines, just speculating on scenarios and seeing where each one leads.

Cognitive and Spontaneous 

A classic example is the story of Archimedes. Rumor has it that he discovered the principle of buoyancy after a long and fruitless day working to determine if the king’s crown was made of solid gold. When he finally made time to take a calming bath, the idea came into existence in his mind, leading to his famous “Eureka!” moment. 


Here we can observe that cognition is key, since prior knowledge is required. Still, the brain sometimes lights up with a sudden realization during a restful activity, when it is not worrying. To boost this type of creativity, try to relax after a long spell of reflection. You may have a “Eureka” moment yourself!

Spontaneous and Emotional

This type of creativity is best illustrated by art – for example, a rapper improvising bars on the spot, or Paul McCartney allegedly dreaming the melody for “Yesterday,” one of the most famous songs in the world. Many consider this category as follows: “either you have it, or you don’t”.


Like all the other types, some people have it to a greater degree (how many painters measure up to Van Gogh? Not many!), but it also requires a certain amount of previous knowledge and experience. Nobody creates something from nothing


Even highly original and innovative art pieces come from artists who immersed themselves in various references. So perhaps the best tip for enabling your own spontaneity is to expose yourself to as many different perspectives and works of art as possible.

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