Creativity in Real and Virtual Worlds


Cynthia Sifonis

Oakland University


This course will focus on creativity largely from a cognitive perspective.  The first session will focus on creativity in the broad sense and consider various models and approaches. The next two sessions will examine in more depth cognitive approaches to understanding creative idea production. The fourth session will examine the unique aspects of virtual worlds as places where creativity might be expressed and as places where creativity might be studied. The final session will include application of creativity principles to projects and problems.


Session 1: Creativity in the Broad Sense: Approaches and Models


Required readings:

Sternberg, R. J. (2006). Creating a vision of creativity: The first 25 years. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, S, 2-12.


Beghetto, R. A., & Kaufman, J. C. (2007). Toward a broader conception of creativity: The case for “mini-c” creativity. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 2, 73-79.


Optional readings:

Kaufman, J. C., & Beghetto, R. A. (2009). Beyond big and little: The Four C model of creativity. Review of General Psychology, 13, 1-12.


Sternberg, R. J., & Lubart, T. I. (1996). Investing in creativity, American Psychologist, 51, 677-688


Ward, T. B., & Saunders, K. N. (2002). Creativity. In L. Nadel (Ed.). Encyclopedia of cognitive science. London: Nature Publishing Group Reference.


Session 2: A Special Focus on the Creative Cognition Approach


Required reading:

Ward, T. B. (2007). Creative cognition as a window on creativity. Methods, 42, 28-37.


Optional reading:

Ward, T.B., Smith, S. M., & Finke, R. A. (1999). Creative cognition. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.), Handbook of creativity (pp. 189-212). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.


Session 3: Near and Far Analogies and the Creative Process


Required readings:

Dunbar, K. (1997). How scientists think: On-line creativity and conceptual change in science. In T. B. Ward, S. M. Smith, & J. Vaid (Eds.), Creative thought: An investigation of conceptual structures and processes (pp. 461-494). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.


Christensen, B. T., & Schunn, C. D. (2007). The relationship of analogical distance to analogical function and pre-inventive structure: The case of engineering design. Memory & Cognition, 35, 29-38.


Session 4: Creativity in Virtual Environments


Required reading:

Ward, T. B., & Sonneborn, M. S. (in press). Creative Expression in Virtual Worlds: Imitation, Imagination and Individualized Collaboration. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts.


Session 5: A Working Session on Creative Applications


In the final class session students will work collaboratively in small groups to produce designs for research studies to investigate the cognitive processes associated with creativity in virtual environments. No readings are assigned for this session.



The class sessions will be a mix of lecture, discussion and planning of experiments.



Students will be assessed on the basis of the research plans produced by the end of the course.


Cynthia Sifonis

Cynthia Sifonis is an associate professor of Cognitive Psychology at Oakland University. Her research focuses on the interaction between the representation of category knowledge and how that knowledge is used to develop new ideas and products. This research takes several forms including research on how category knowledge influences and constrains performance in generation tasks and during analogical reasoning. Her research on applied analogical reasoning includes studies examining the effects of conceptual distance between analogy source and target domains on the quality of solutions generated for the target domain. This research has led to the development of methodologies that have been used to teach corporate executives how to use analogical reasoning to generate innovative business processes and products. Cynthia has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Creative Behavior as well as the International Journal of Creativity and Problem Solving