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Book Forum: Creativity   |    
Encyclopedia of Creativity, vols. I and II
Am J Psychiatry 2000;157:1901-a-1902. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.157.11.1901-a
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Detroit, Mich.

Edited by Mark A. Runco and Steven Pritzker. San Diego, Academic Press, 1999, 1,663 pp., $350.00.

Creativity, defined in this book as "creative ability; artistic or intellectual inventiveness," has been a focus of interest of many different disciplines, such as psychology, education, business, and the health sciences, including psychiatry (e.g., the works of Dr. Andreasen [1], and Dr. Jamison [2]). As the editors of the Encyclopedia of Creativity point out, more than 10,000 research articles in creativity have appeared in hundreds of journals and periodicals since 1960, and more than 600 books about creativity have been published in the 1990s. It was just a matter of time until someone tried to put together a volume summarizing the available information on creativity in an organized and easily understandable fashion. Two psychologists, Drs. Mark Runco and Steven Pritzker, both scholars in creativity, are bringing us such a volume. They gathered 167 contributors from all over the world and edited the Encyclopedia of Creativity.

The Encyclopedia is divided into two volumes and is arranged alphabetically by subject, from Acting to Zen. It is meticulously edited, which is one of the strong points of the book. Each of the 190 entries is in fact an article written by one of the 167 experts. Each article serves as a comprehensive overview of a given area, providing both "breadth of coverage for students and depth of coverage for research professionals." Each article contains an outline, a glossary, cross-references to other related articles in the encyclopedia, and a bibliography. The bibliography lists selected recent secondary sources to aid the reader in locating more detailed or technical information. The encyclopedia has also two appendixes, one on the chronology of events and important ideas and works on creativity and one on tests of creativity.

Examples of entries include Adaptation and Creativity, Birth Order, Chaos Theory and Creativity, Drugs and Creativity, Economic Perspectives of Creativity, Families and Creativity, Handwriting and Creativity, and Women and Creativity. Some of the entries (Alcohol and Creativity, Brain Biology and Brain Functioning, Brain and Creative Art, Counseling, Dreams and Creativity, Freud, Intelligence, Jungian Theory, Mad Genius Controversy, Memory and Creativity, Mood, Personality, Schizophrenia, Suicide, Unconscious) are related to the field of mental health and psychiatry. An interesting feature of the Encyclopedia is the inclusion of a select number of biographies of individuals who were famous for their creativity and whose creative endeavors have been studied (e.g., Lewis Carroll, Paul Cézanne, Leonardo da Vinci, Isak Dinesen, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Sylvia Plath, Robert Schumann, Anne Sexton, Vincent van Gogh, and Virginia Woolf). The selection is certainly not complete and may not include everybody’s favorite. However, I found the biographies the most enjoyable and enlivening feature of the book.

The Encyclopedia of Creativity contains a wealth of interesting information. For instance, did you know that, contrary to earlier findings, "balanced" bilingual students show higher divergent thinking, cognitive flexibility, linguistic humor, and other signs of creativity? Or that culturally active individuals tend to outlive those who are less culturally active?

The editing, biographies, wealth of information, and readability are the strengths of this book. However, Encyclopedia of Creativity also has several weaknesses. Typical for a multiauthor volume, the entries are of uneven quality. Some contributors could learn the virtue of brevity. Furthermore, bibliography is not the strongest feature of this book. I would rather see references to the original cited sources, which frequently are not given here. Finally, the high price could be a deterrent. Libraries and some serious scholars of creativity may be willing to spend this much, but not students or a "wide audience."

Nevertheless, this volume seems to fulfill its goals—it is a source book, the first of its kind, comprehensive, written for a wide audience, and thus easy to read. Some entries are quite enjoyable to read. The Encyclopedia of Creativity will be a great addition to the library of anyone seriously interested in creativity. However, those seeking an easy way to enhance their creativity through reading this or any other book should beware of Karl Pribram’s caveat in his entry, Brain and the Creative Act: "Creativity is made up of 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Nor is reinventing the wheel a truly creative act."

Andreasen NC: Creativity and mental illness prevalence rates in writers and their first-degree relatives. Am J Psychiatry 1987; 144:1288–  1292
Jamison KR: Touched With Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament. New York, Free Press, 1993


Andreasen NC: Creativity and mental illness prevalence rates in writers and their first-degree relatives. Am J Psychiatry 1987; 144:1288–  1292
Jamison KR: Touched With Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament. New York, Free Press, 1993

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