JCU Logo


COURSE NAME: "Science of Creativity"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2023

INSTRUCTOR: Carola Salvi
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: TTH 1:30 PM 2:45 PM

In this course, students will explore human creativity through different scientific perspectives (i.e., psychological, cognitive, artistic, and neurobiological). They will be introduced to research in creativity studies, and learn how to critically examine the current theories, evidence, and applications. The main topics include the definition of creativity; psychological and cognitive profiles of creative individuals; basic cognitive functioning of creative thinking and its neural correlates; and cognitive strategies for optimizing creative output.



Students will be introduced to research in creativity studies, and learn how to critically examine the current theories, evidence, and applications. Through interactive lectures and experiential learning activities, students will gain insight into the creative person, process, product, and press, the science of creativity, and the increasing importance and global context of creativity skills in the 21st century. Students will enhance their ability to recognize and nurture their creative potential. Written assignments and presentations will allow students to begin exploring foundational concepts in creativity studies and enhance their creative capacities.



By the end of this course, students should demonstrate a clear understanding of the complexity of creating, brain-related functions, individual differences, and the challenges inherent in the scientific approach. Students should be able to identify central constructs, theories, models, and research in the field of creativity.

The course is designed with 8 goals in mind, which will help you work towards achieving the main learning objectives of the major (indicated in parenthesis). At the end of the course students will be able to:


  • Understand cross-disciplinary research, key concepts, and themes and critically evaluate theories on the nature and global context of creativity and other cognitive processes involved in it (LOS1)
  • Appraise and communicate the basic elements of the creative product, process, person, and press (LOS2,3)
  • Examine how the evolved mind and brain can create new and useful ideas, and explain the implications and application of creativity to one’s own experience and to everyday life (LOS1)
  • Accurately summarize and present information from scientific sources and write persuasive scientific arguments in the field of creativity (LOS3)

ExamsThere will be 2 midterms exams administered during the semester, plus a final. The midterms will review the assigned textbook readings, lectures, and additional material covered in the preceding classes. Each midterm will cover approximately 1/2 of the course material. The final exam will include multiple-choice, short answers, and a 500 words essay assessing a creative project. Students will be asked questions on the material learned in class and to do a critical evaluation of a creative project in any field of creativity (from a business idea to a scientific discovery to any form of art; from cinema to literature and design). The essay will ask students to critically assess the elements of novelty and originality of creative projects. This written assignment includes multiple-choice, short answers, and a 500 words essay. Students will be asked questions on the material learned in class and to do a critical evaluation of a creative project in any field of creativity (from a business idea to scientific discovery to any form of art; from cinema to literature and design). This assignment will give students the ability to critically assess the elements of novelty and originality of creative projects. There will be a total of 1 final assignment that however requires a deep understanding of the science of creativity and critical evaluation of the idea content. There will be no make-up assignment, however, if you turn in the assignment on time, you will be given the opportunity to review it and adjust it one time. Only the TWO highest scores will count towards the final grade. The lowest score will be dropped. The extra exam will allow those who have to miss an exam (i.e., excused absence) to make up for it. If you miss two of the three tests, you will be dropped off the class. No other arrangement will be made. 90
Active Lecture ParticipationAttendance and participation. Class attendance and participation are crucial components of the learning process. When you attend and when you actively engage in-class activities, you process new information in at least four ways: you listen, you take notes, you ask questions, and while discussing a given subject, you paraphrase what you have just heard. A central part of this course is in-person discussion, during which you have an opportunity to clarify, expand upon, apply, and challenge what you have read in the assigned texts. Class time will be divided into lectures, discussions, and other structured activities. Attendance is thus considered mandatory. All the above increases the odds of understanding and remembering the material covered in class. Active discussions and journal clubs will be part of the way you learn the science of creativity. Therefore, I expect you to attend class and participate in class discussions and exercises. I am aware that unforeseen life circumstances may impact your ability to attend class. I believe that natural consequences are appropriate here: if you miss class, you miss out on important course material and experiences, which impacts learning. It is my experience that students who miss classes have the most difficulty. It is your responsibility to arrive in class ON TIME. 10

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. The final exam period runs until ____________
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.



Creativity, an introduction




Additional Information and Resources

Laptops and Other Devices. Multitasking is a myth. Therefore, you should not use a laptop or tablet computer in this course during lectures or discussion, including for note-taking or reading purposes, unless you can demonstrate a compelling need for it. Likewise, you may not use a music player or headphones, unless they are attached to a hearing-assistive device approved by the professor (i.e., me). If you are given such an exception, it will be immediately and permanently revoked if you abuse the technology for off-topic purposes. The use of such devices can be a distraction to your classmates and instructor and a detriment to your learning. Readings should be brought to class in the print version or printed out. Notes should be taken on paper and scanned or transcribed after class (transcribing handwritten notes is an effective study method). For certain activities in-class, the instructor may request you to bring a laptop or to take it out and use it for that specific purpose.


Classroom expectations 

You are expected to have read the assignments before class, and it would be to your benefit to also read them again after class. You are expected to bring a copy of assigned readings for each day’s class and have them available to refer to. You are expected to listen respectfully to the professor and your fellow students and participate in class discussions and activities. Clear failure to abide by these expectations will result in you being asked to leave the classroom and being counted absent for the day. 


Some Pro Tips 

·  Read the syllabus carefully and refer to it often. 

·  Come to class with questions, sections of texts you want to discuss already flagged, and comments to make. Write in your books and/or take notes while you read! Pose questions and make observations as you read and write them down. Reflect upon our previous class discussions and jot down notes and page numbers that you think are relevant. 

·  Come to every class prepared. Read carefully and take time to skim through readings before class to refresh details that you may have forgotten or details that you may have overlooked during the first read-through. 

·  Listen and contribute actively to the conversation. 

·  Visit me during Office Hours, especially if you have a question or observation that you did not get to make in class. Visit me during Office Hours even if you don’t have questions. 

·  Complete every assignment on time. 

·  If you have concerns or questions about your work or performance (at any stage in the process), come see me. I am happy to work with you. 

·  Get the email addresses or phone numbers of a couple of students in case you need to find out what you missed. Consider discussing your presentation or the readings with each other before they are due. 

·  Come to class on time and do not pack up early. If something comes up and you have to be absent or leave early, please talk to me about it. Life happens.

·  If you are having difficulties (in life, class, etc.) talk to me before you get too far in a hole. Everyone has a tough semester.






MODULE 1: Conceptions of Creativity


Week 1.                  Introduction to Creativity 



-Course overview and requirements; personal expectations

-Creative climate: introduction to the framework of person, process, product, and press

-The purpose of studying creativity


Week 2.                  The Evolution of Creativity and Creativity Studies 



-Creativity, evolution, and human history

-History, background, and development of creativity and studies in creativity

-Creativity as a multi-disciplinary object of rigorous research

-Creativity as a multi-faceted, global phenomenon


MODULE 2: The 4 P’s


Week 3.                  Creative Product 



Defining creativity and characteristics of the creative product

-Different levels of creativity (e.g., mini-c, little-c, proc, big-C)

-Psychometric tests and assessments of creativity vs. creative achievement across domains 

Week 4.                  Creative Process 



-Spontaneous and deliberate creative processes

-Stages of the creative process

-Analogies in creativity

-The research and study of the creative process


Week 5.                  Creative Person 



-Personality and creativity

-Intelligence, talent, knowledge, flow, and creativity

-Creative styles/preferences/dispositions


Week 6.                  Creative Press



-Elements of the creative press (physical and social-psychological)

-Enablers and barriers to creativity in organizations and society


Week 7.                  Assessments: Exam 1 



MODULE 3: The Creative Mind and Brain


Week 8.     Cognitive Neuroscience of Creativity



-Evolution of the creative mind and brain

-Cognitive psychology and creativity

-Neural correlates of divergent thinking and creative insight

-Representation and processing of information in the mind and brain


Recommended Readings

-Beaty, R. E., Benedek, M., Silvia, P. J., & Schacter, D. L. (2016). Creative cognition and brain network dynamics. Trends in cognitive sciences20(2), 87-95.

-Salvi, C., 2021. Markers of insight. 



Week 9.     Creativity and Anomalous Cognition



-The relation between mental illness/neurodiversity and creativity

-Neuropsychology and creativity

-Drugs and creativity


Recommended Readings

-Nancy Andreason, ‘Secrets of the Creative Brain’, The Atlantic, 2014


-R. Douglas Fields, ‘Creativity, Madness and Drugs’, Scientific American, 2013


-Snyder, A. (2009). Explaining and inducing savant skills: privileged access to lower level, less-processed information. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences364(1522), 1399-1405.


MODULE 4: Creativity and You


Week 10.  Creativity in the 21st Century 



-Creativity in the Anthropocene/Fourth Industrial Revolution

-The relation between technology, the extended mind, artificial intelligence, and creative thinking


Recommended Readings

R. Bidshahri, How Technology is Leading Us Into the Imagination Age, Singularity Hub, 2017


West, D. M. (2015). What happens if robots take the jobs? The impact of emerging technologies on employment and public policy. Centre for Technology Innovation at Brookings, Washington DC.

Palti, I. (2017). Could creativity drive the next industrial revolution? World Economic Forum.



Week 11.  Enhancing Creativity 


-Overcoming barriers to creativity

-Living a creative life and everyday creativity

-Diversifying experiences and creativity

-Creativity and persistence


Recommended Readings 

-Brian J. Lucas & Loran Nordgren, ‘Giving up is the Enemy of Creativity’, Harvard Business Review, 2015

-Ruth Richards, 'Everyday Creativity: Process and Way of Life-Four Key Issues'

-Making is Connection by David Gauntlett. http://davidgauntlett.com/making-is-connecting-second-expanded-edition/

Week 12.  Assessments: Exam 2

Week 13.  Critical discussion of creative projects This class is preparatory to the final exam. It will be dedicated to examples of creative projects assessment. Students will be given the opportunity to discuss creative projects as a preparation for the final exam. There will be opportunity to gain points for the final report. 


Finals Week. Final Exam