Investigating the development of creativity: The Sahlin hypothesis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter


How should the development of creativity be approached? Many accounts of children’s creativity focus on the relation between creativity and pretend play, placing make-believe and the mental exploration of possible scenarios about the world at the fore. Often divergent thinking and story-telling are used to measure creativity with fluency, originality, and flexibility as indicators. I will argue that the strong focus on conceptual processes and higher-order thought leaves procedural forms of creativity in the dark and hinders a proper investigation of the development of creativity. Creativity involves both strategic and procedural elements and the mental and physical manipulation of ideas are equally important. Sahlin’s notion of rule-based creativity might serve as the starting-point for an approach to the development of creativity that is neutral as to the underlying nature of creativity and that permits investigating creativity independently of language. On this approach, creativity is characterized by the violation and subsequent replacement of a rule or norm that underlies a given activity with a novel strategy or procedure. When, where, and how children will manifest creativity is conditional on the kind of rule or norm that is violated.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Psychology
  • Philosophy


  • problem-solving, play, creativity, development, novelty, creativity test, Pedagogy
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAgainst boredom
Subtitle of host publication17 essays : on ignorance, values, creativity, metaphysics, decision-making, truth, preference, art, processes, Ramsey, ethics, rationality, validity, human ills, science and eternal life : to Nils-Eric Sahlin on the occasion of his 60th birthday
EditorsJohannes Persson, Göran Hermerén, Eva Sjöstrand
PublisherFri tanke förlag
ISBN (Print)978-91-87935-37-4
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Publication categoryResearch

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