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The evolutionary roots of creativity: mechanisms and motivations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

We consider the evolution of cognition and the emergence of creative behaviour,
in relation to vocal communication. We address two key questions:
(i) what cognitive and/or social mechanisms have evolved that afford aspects
of creativity?; (ii) has natural and/or sexual selection favoured human behaviours
considered ‘creative’? This entails analysis of ‘creativity’, an imprecise
construct: comparable properties in non-humans differ in magnitude and
teleology from generally agreed human creativity. We then address two
apparent problems: (i) the difference between merely novel productions
and ‘creative’ ones; (ii) the emergence of creative behaviour in spite of high
cost: does it fit the idea that females choose a male who succeeds in spite of
a handicap (costly ornament); or that creative males capable of producing a
large and complex song repertoire grew up under favourable conditions; or
a demonstration of generally beneficial heightened reasoning capacity;
or an opportunity to continually reinforce social bonding through changing
communication tropes; or something else? We illustrate and support our
argument by reference to whale and bird song; these independently evolved
biological signal mechanisms objectively share surface properties with
human behaviours generally called ‘creative’. Studying them may elucidate
mechanisms underlying human creativity; we outline a research programme
to do so.
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Details

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences
Volume370
Issue number1664
Early online date2 Feb 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015

    Research areas

  • Creativity, Vocal communication, Music, Computational modelling, Information theory

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