The 4 Types of Creativity

creativitymatrixCreativity is often pegged to those who are able to produce art such as paintings or songs or scripts, or who can skilfully dance or act. The thing is, whenever someone thinks about creativity, it’s either going to be something we learn or an inborn talent. Because of this, creativity is often assumed as something lateral, without really putting much credence as to what is behind the output that is usually the one given praise.

It shouldn’t be discounted like that just yet! Think of creativity as our intelligence with two facets: crystallized and fluid, which can be also said for our creativity. It’s a bit of both and neither at the same time. Arne Dietrich (2004) has even identified 4 different types of creativity with corresponding brain activities. It’s kind of like a matrix (as seen above!).

Creativity can either be emotionally (based from the heart) or cognitively (thoughts, logical intelligence) based, and can also be spontaneous (something unexpected) of deliberate (conscious effort to sustain). This gives you four quadrants, each with different and unique aspects to it!


The Thomas Edison Quadrant

This is characterized by deliberate and cognitive creativity. This type of intelligence stems from already having a predisposed body of knowledge, putting it together to create a new output, and working on it (repeatedly, if needed). Thomas Edison is a really good example of this, not because of his light bulb invention, but because of how he constantly worked on it, and after thousands of experiments he finally had a breakthrough. This type of creativity comes from the pre-frontal cortex that allows you to pay focused attention at the task at hand, and make connections among information that you have stored in other parts of your brain. This type of creativity requires a high degree of knowledge and plenty of time (and patience!).


The Ever Amazing “A-ha!” Quadrant

Have you ever experienced times where you’ve seen all the bad decisions you made and just suddenly figure out what you did wrong? It sometimes sends your life in a tailspin, but this is usually where we get to analyse our lives in retrospect. Characterized by our vibrant spectrum of emotion and its deliberate nature to make us feel, this can be encountered whenever you suddenly have an insight about yourself – maybe after experiencing a stressor (i.e., a personal break up, a failed test, moving to a new town). This is ruled by the prefrontal cortex (the deliberate part of the creative intelligence) and the cingulate cortex (the part of the brain which processes our emotions, that has to do with our interaction with our environment) and this is often attributed to epiphanies and self-discovery. When tapping into this kind of creativity, a lot of silent moments to sort things out are required, but how it is spent will depend on the person. light-bulb-eureka


Doesn’t it always feel amazing whenever you suddenly figure out the answer to a problem that’s been gnawing at your brain for a long time? Well, this is exactly what this quadrant is about! But, it’s not about meditating on the problem (or the stressor for that matter) for a really long time like the previous two we’ve discussed, but rather this happens when we take a break and let our minds relax. And when we come back to the task at hand, we get to work on our projects better. Characterized by our cognition and its spontaneity, this is often controlled by the basal ganglia of the brain where dopamine is stored. When this type of creativity happens, the conscious brain stops working on the problem and hands it over to the unconscious brain while concentration is channelled elsewhere. By doing this, our brains are able to connect new information to the task via our unconscious mental processes. This is why Isaac Newton is a great example of this, as his theory literally fell on his head!


Our Hard-to-Find Epiphanies

In general, epiphanies are so difficult to find because of the nature of our emotions. Emotions are powerful energies that can give us the avenue to contemplate on our lives, but also have the tendency to overpower us, making the experience unpleasant to most people. But some people, especially the artists who claim that part of their creative process is to feel (even if it’s unpleasant!), are no stranger to this. Often, they would describe these feelings as ‘epiphanies’ or religious experiences to others because of the sheer power of the emotionally charged activity. Ruled by the amygdala, this type of intelligence stems from the spontaneity of emotional creativity and our ability to create powerful and exciting things with it. There is no pre-set cognition needed, but it requires the skill to execute the final output – and this is usually the generalized type of creativity people refer to.


Humans are amazing creatures. With our multi-faceted intelligence, it is as if we are an infinite resource of aesthetics and rationale. And since we are so, these types of intelligences interlace to make one unique artist, capable of ruling the world with beauty. And, like Chef Gusteau famously claims that “anyone can cook”: it’s safe to say that “anyone can make art”.


Susan Weinschenk. (February 3, 2011). 100 Things You Should Know About People: #57 – There are 4 Types of Creativity. In The Team W Blog. Retrieved September 25, 2015, from

Edited By: Lizzie Watson

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