Chapter 4. The creative process
Creativity is important in problem spaces of a probabilistic kind but not absent in deterministic settings either. The current chapter proposes a process model that describes how creativity happens in the minds of individuals while happily transgressing deterministic rules and classifications. ACASIA is short for Association, Combination, Abstraction, Selection, Integration, and Adaptation and can be envisioned as a flow diagram describing the relations among a number of itself repeating stages. When ACASIA keeps within the bandwidth of accepted behaviors (‘the rules’), it contributes to the continuation of the evolutionary line of creativity. When ACASIA bridges extremely large associative distances between domains or categories, it disrupts the initial evolutionary line and can start a new one. The focus of ACASIA is on establishing similarity – the flash of insight – between associatively remote entities.Seeing and reinforcing similarity at the flash of insight contributes to the continuity aspect of creativity and innovation. The remaining dissimilarity contributes to the discontinuity aspect, a clash of meanings. Perceived similarity and dissimilarity between two remote entities are reflections of the (fuzzy) intersection and distinctive sets, respectively. The smaller the (fuzzy) intersection or the larger the distinctive sets, the stronger a connection must be made, which demands higher levels of inventiveness. Similarity can be established deliberately but can also happen at random, for example, when two or more entities that are disparate according to a certain belief system simultaneously come to mind (co-occurrence) and coincidental matches happen between the features present in the associated semantic networks or feature sets. These may be partial matches (cf. fuzziness) or correlations and, therefore, form a basis for elaboration in order to strengthen the discovered connections (from correlation to co-relation to creation). As a result, the brain establishes new neural association paths between areas where concepts are stored that were earlier unrelated. It thus follows that exposure to large quantities of diverse information and allowing many loose-fitting associations to the core concepts (cf. divergent thinking, free association, brainstorming) raise the likelihood that lucky combinations will strike. When they do, they stimulate the growth of a tighter network of neuronal connections, which together constitute the new belief system. The present chapter ends with a simulation of the ACASIA model and the designs it suggested.