Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, Vol. 21, Iss. 1, January, 2017, pp. 35-88
@2017 Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology & Life Sciences


Honing Theory: A Complex Systems Framework for Creativity

Liane Gabora, University of British Columbia, Kelowna BC, Canada

Abstract: This paper proposes a theory of creativity, referred to as honing theory, which posits that creativity fuels the process by which culture evolves through communal exchange amongst minds that are self-organizing, self-maintaining, and self-reproducing. According to honing theory, minds, like other self-organizing systems, modify their contents and adapt to their environments to minimize entropy. Creativity begins with detection of high psychological entropy material, which provokes uncertainty and is arousal-inducing. The creative process involves recursively considering this material from new contexts until it is sufficiently restructured that arousal dissipates. Restructuring involves neural synchrony and dynamic binding, and may be facilitated by temporarily shifting to a more associative mode of thought. A creative work may similarly induce restructuring in others, and thereby contribute to the cultural evolution of more nuanced worldviews. Since lines of cultural descent connecting creative outputs may exhibit little continuity, it is proposed that cultural evolution occurs at the level of self-organizing minds; outputs reflect their evolutionary state. Honing theory addresses challenges not addressed by other theories of creativity, such as the factors that guide restructuring, and in what sense creative works evolve. Evidence comes from empirical studies, an agent-based computational model of cultural evolution, and a model of concept combination.

Keywords: complex adaptive system, cultural evolution, psychological entropy, restructuring, self-organized criticality