Creativity is a mental process involving the discovery of new ideas or concepts, or new associations of the existing ideas or concepts, fueled by the process of either conscious or unconscious insight.
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From a scientific point of view, the products of creative thought (sometimes referred to as divergent thought) are usually considered to have both originality and appropriateness.
Although intuitively a simple phenomenon, it is in fact quite complex. It has been studied from the perspectives of behavioural psychology, social psychology, psychometrics, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, philosophy, aesthetics, history, economics, design research, business, and management, among others. The studies have covered everyday creativity, exceptional creativity and even artificial creativity. Unlike many phenomena in science, there is no single, authoritative perspective or definition of creativity. And unlike many phenomena in psychology, there is no standardized measurement technique.
Creativity has been attributed variously to divine intervention, cognitive processes, the social environment, personality traits, and chance ("accident", "serendipity"). It has been associated with genius, mental illness, humour and REM sleep. Some say it is a trait we are born with; others say it can be taught with the application of simple techniques. Creativity has also been viewed as a beneficence of a muse or Muses.
Although popularly associated with art and literature, it is also an essential part of innovation and invention and is important in professions such as business, economics, architecture, industrial design, graphic design, advertising, mathematics, music, science and engineering, and teaching.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the ambiguity and multi-dimensional nature of creativity, entire industries have been spawned from the pursuit of creative ideas and the development of creativity techniques.
Creativity has been associated with right or forehead brain activity or even specifically with lateral thinking.
Some students of creativity have emphasized an element of chance in the creative process. Linus Pauling, asked at a public lecture how one creates scientific theories, replied that one must endeavor to come up with many ideas — then discard the useless ones.
Another adequate definition of creativity, according to Otto Rank, is that it is an "assumptions-breaking process." Creative ideas are often generated when one discards preconceived assumptions and attempts a new approach or method that might seem to others unthinkable.