Northampton Electronic Collection of Theses and Research

Creativity, altered states of consciousness and anomalous cognition: the role of epistemological flexibility in the creative process

Holt, N. J. (2007) Creativity, altered states of consciousness and anomalous cognition: the role of epistemological flexibility in the creative process. Doctoral thesis. The University of Northampton.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Abstract: In this PhD research a question is posed that concerns ‘varieties of creativity’ that have infrequently been explored empirically, although often described anecdotally. This question being: is, and if so, how, is creativity related to altered states of consciousness (ASCs) and parapsychological experiences? This thesis systematically explores the relationship between multiple dimensions of creativity and: personality traits characterised by an openness to intrapersonal experience and a fluid cognitive-style; specific altered states of consciousness and anomalous experiences (such as mystical experiences and subjective paranormal experiences); and anomalous cognition. The common thread is conceived as an examination of the extent to which creativity might involve ‘epistemological flexibility’ — that is, involves shifts into, and between, different ‘ways of knowing’. As such, a major part of this thesis was the psychometric development of a new self-report instrument, the Creative Cognition Inventory, which measures the reported use of different epistemological resources (such as intuition, dreams and rational logic) in the creative process. Creativity is defined in terms of a process, participated in at the person-level, which leads to a novel and adaptive product or performance. Drawing upon models of the creative process and person, it is suggested that a biphasic process is common to most theories of creativity, and that individuals with particular traits have been hypothesised to engage in this with more facility. Models that have explored cognitive, affective and perceptual ‘looseness’ as facilitating novelty are examined. As altered states of consciousness involve subjective shifts in these same dimensions, it is proposed that creativity and ASCs may be experientially related, either directly, or in terms of an overarching trait, such as ‘boundary-thinness’ or ‘transliminality’, which propitiates both. A multi-dimensional approach was taken to creativity measurement, accepting its complexity as a componential construct that might consist of multiple creativities. In Study One, the benefits of a multidimensional approach to creativity measurement were evident, refuting earlier work that had used only cognitive estimates of creativity and found no relationship with either boundary-thinness or transliminality. These constructs are experiential-traits that assess ones degree of intrapersonal openness, cognitive fluidity and sensitivity, and are associated with a proclivity to have unusual experiences. In Study One, they were found to be significantly correlated with both domain general measures of creativity (creative personality) and domain specific measures (emotional creativity and involvement in the arts). The sample for Study One consisted of 65 psychology undergraduates (49 females; 16 males). A second study assessed the degree to which different dimensions of creativity were related to different experiences of consciousness. 211 participants were recruited from the general population through opportunity sampling (108 females; 101 males). The sample included professional artists (n = 36) and scientists (n = 27). Competing models of a relationship between creativity and ASC-proclivity were assessed: cognitive expansion; affective openness; and motivational impetus. This study provided numerous insights into the experiences of consciousness that might be related to varieties of creativity. The key findings were that emotional creativity was most robustly associated with ASCs; artistic creative-personality was associated with ‘positive’ ASCs, including those along an oneiric continuum (e.g. hypnagogia and hallucinations), and those along an affective expansion continuum (e.g. dissociation and positive mystical experiences). Further, original and flexible cognition appeared to be associated with states along an oneiric continuum. Thus, Study Two found support for the affective and cognitive models, yet within different ranges of experience. This ‘model’ helps to clarify, by using heterogeneous, rather than homogenous constructs of ‘unusual experiences’, specific processes by which ASCs and creativity may be related and as such deserves further exploration. The final piece of research developed a novel protocol for recording impressions thought by participants to involve extrasensory perception (ESP) and associated states of consciousness in daily life, using experience- sampling methodology. As success in ESP experiments has consistently been reported amongst visual artists, the above models were used to explore what aspects of the creativity complex might be associated with ESP-performance. As only emotional creativity related to the reporting of parapsychological experiences in Study Two, the affective openness model was expected to predict ESP-performance. Further, a carefully matched control group (n = 15) was used against which to compare success of artists (n = 15). Artists did not demonstrate a superior ESP effect in this study, although they did perform at a level commensurate with previous research. The affective openness hypothesis for ESP performance was rejected. Rather, it was questioned whether previous studies had not adequately matched controls or that the ‘take-home’ methodology, perhaps increasing relaxation and control for the participants, increased performance levels for the non-artists
Uncontrolled Keywords: Extrasensory perception; creative ability; altered states of consciousness
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF1228 Spiritualism > BF1321 Extrasensory perception
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF1001 Parapsychology. Psychic research. Psychology of the conscious
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF309 Consciousness. Cognition > BF408 Creative ability
Creators: Holt, Nicola J
Department: School of Social Sciences > Theses
Faculties, Divisions and Institutes: University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > Faculty of Health & Society > Theses (Health & Society)
University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > School of Social Sciences (to 2016) > Theses
Date: 2007
Date Type: Completion
Language: English
Status: Unpublished
Institution: The University of Northampton

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