Moving Away from a Human Centered Definition of Creativity: An Exploratory Study


  • Caroline Lutz University of Vienna


What is creative behavior? Its definition varies from culture to culture, context and level of inquiry. Recently, technological advancements in artificial intelligence have challenged our conception of creativity as a uniquely human trait even further.

To adapt and evolve in synergy with the developments in AI and to get the best out of these advanced technologies it is crucial to contemplate what we mean when we talk about creativity. What are the components that we can outsource and which are the aspects that only humans can fulfill? Are those aspects skills that can be learned and developed?

To understand what creativity essentially represents, I am focusing on the behaviors we can call creative. Taking a strong behavior analytic stance, the goal of my research is to operationalize creative behavior and its building block behaviors. Analogies and definitions of creative behaviors originating in other fields - artificial intelligence [1] and machine learning in the first place, but also animal behavior [2], dynamical systems theory and aesthetics [3] help to get a grip on a potential operationalization of creative behavior. Once the behaviors have been operationalized, I will be able to go on to develop appropriate measurement tools.

In my research I am using a transdisciplinary approach to examine the phenomenon of creativity that includes methods from artistic research. Stretching out my field of inquiry in between behavior analysis, artificial intelligence and ethology I look for definitions of creativity that are not necessarily human centered but hold the possibility to operationalize creative behaviors and its building blocks in detail. Ultimately, I am looking for definitions of creativity that hold for human behavior as well as for either animal behavior or the behavior of artificial cognitive systems.

The character of my research is exploratory and has the goal of understanding the topic generally from different vantage points. Secondary literature research and talks with experts are guiding my research process at this point. The product of this research process should be hypotheses that I can explore and test in future projects.

Practical utility of my research outcomes can give new impulses to help design informed educational and instructional programs in the arts more efficiently. My research vision for further projects would be to define environmental arrangements to enable the occurrence of creative behavior and establishing a basis for the architecture and design of instructional programs on creating creative behavior.


[1] V. Braitenberg, Vehicles, Experiments in Synthetic Psychology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1984.

[2] A. B. Kaufman and J. C. Kaufman, Animal Creativity and Innovation. London: Academic Press/Elsevier, 2015.

[3] K. R. Sawyer, Explaining Creativity, 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.