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RE: [xmca] RE: Smolucha article, creativity, and imagination

Hi, everyone.

The use of "creativity" versus "imagination" does make it a different question. In trying to help overcome the ambiguity of the terms used in both Vygotsky's writings and in transdisciplinary research since the time of Vygotsky's work, I submit the follwing. I hope it is helpful.

On the term creativity:
Creativity in not a singular, definable mental process. (I think this is a clarification Vera makes.)
Creativity is a cultural construct. For a discussion of this see Keith Sawyer’s book Explaining Creativity (2006).

On the terms image, imagery, and imagination:
What is often defined as “mental imagery” in psychology is the experience or mental representation of perception without the stimulus of present.  A definition of this order is exemplified in Sternberg’s general Cognitive Psychology (2006) text book. So really that would just be another way of saying remembering prior sensory experience as though it were happening again. This is tthe "reproductive imagination" that Smolucha (1992) distinguishes from the "combinatory imagination"  in Vygotsky's theory of creativity on page 51. This definition  of mental imagery does not do justice to our understanding of imagination or its use in what might be considered complex, creative activity which involves multiple levels for discussion: the subjective phenomenon from the experience of the individual and the actual neural processes involved in thinking, just to name a few, nor does it help us breach the division of the two by enabling a discussion of mental functions as they are co-constructed by culture and the individual within culture.  Another problem with confusing this definition of imagery with imagination as a psychological construct is that the word “image” is often confused with a single modality of sight.  What is processed and activated  and stored in the brain is not exclusive to this one modality and therefore, our memories of our experience and what we can think about involve more than a visual replay of the sights we have seen. Imagery can also refer to experiences involving motor and spatial senses as well. For more on this, I recommend Paivio and Kosslyn. Pavio’s theory goes a long way in incorporating a wide range of environmental stimuli and their various routes of activation in cognition. For example, he includes words in his model of cognition as simultaneously visual memory codes, auditory codes, motor codes, etc. acknowledging that a meaningful word is not just stored in one place and accessed by one route, but can be evoked in imagery as the sound of it being spoken by a particular voice. this expands the complexity of plausible model for memory that then might be used in creative thinking which gives new meaning to the mechansisms of Vygotsky’s concept of inner speech.
Differentiating lower from higher processes:
Higher mental functions involve processes that are not dependent on immediate sensory stimuli.  this is worth stating in regards to Vygotsky's recurring emphasis on the difference of creativity in young children, the adolescent, and mature individuals. Areas of the primary prjection pathways that are more closely involved with particular sense develop earlier. what does not develop as early are what Luria calls the secondary and tertiary zones or functional units.  This is directly related to dendritic branching that occurs as a result of experience over time.Studies attempted to further our greater understanding of the corresponding location of the brain (or lack there of!) where this occurs has helped us understand that the networks of neural activation that occur in complex tasks is distributed across various areas of the brain. So complex functions like reading and writing with multiple levels of meaning use multiple levels of processing and these systems are integrated in a complex way related to experience. Creativity, classified as a higher mental function, is one of these processes that is complex and integrates multiple functions. Vygtosky addresses this on pg 56 in Smolucha’s article where he describes “psychological systems”. One example illustrating this complexity is recognizing that thinking is simultaneously using bidirectional pathways  and is both bottom-up processing and top-down processing. This means that once a child has sufficient experience to allow him to generalize concepts he then begins to categorize his or her present experience using this more abstract thinking. This type of thinking is enabled through development not as a product or function of age maturation or merely biological determinism. The biological age is not a direct constraint on higher psychological function. The mind is capable of higher level functions later in development because of both changes in the brain and experience in the world. For further clarification on neuropsychological function, I draw on Luria’s work on primary, secondary, and tertiary zones of the brain which is a nice complement to what Vygotsky writes about creativity. Imagination is another way of talking about thinking, to use the common term. Vygotsky would probably say "inner speech" the nature of which changes from youth to maturity as children learn from their culture meaningful concepts.

Taking brain development into consideration, the structure of the developing brain is dynamic and changes in interaction with the environment. The environment does not consist of merely physical objects to sense and perceive, but at all times cultural ways of attending to them and using them, or what might be socially mediated concepts. Vygotsky’s work in general establishes clearly the significant role of language in this process of development. Using an example from written language one can see how the process of reading or writing makes use of sensory modalities most obviously the visual sense but to comprehend a word or concept presented as a written symbol does not just require the eyes, but the integration of cultural concepts. This is why a mental function cannot be defined without acknowledging cultural constraints. The cultural constraints on development are indeed those that give objects and actions meaning. The conscious and deliberate thinking that is conceptually meaningful is cultural. It is also abstract or what Luria calls, supramodal, or above the specificity of the specific sensory modalities.

Creative Imagination: If we think of creative imagination broadly as the recombination of novel thought elements into something original, then almost everyone is capable of thinking and acting creatively. We don't always see creative though manifested in action beacuse we can't always recognize whether it was creative, and students have a tendency to self-censor as they learn more about what is culturally acceptable.This is consistent with Vygotsky’s writing. Also Mike and Etienne write about imagination in their paper. Another account of imagination in cognition which discusses this is in the paper cited from Barsalou. 

Works Cited
Barsalou, L. W. (1999). Language comprehension: Archival memory or preparation for situated action? Discourse Processes, 28(1), 61-80.
Kosslyn, S. M., Thompson, W. L., & Ganis, G. (2006). The case for mental imagery. New York: Oxford University Press.
Luria, A. R. (1973). The working brain: An introduction to neuropsychology. Basic Books.
Paivio, A. (2007). Mind and its Evolution: A dual coding theoretical approach. Mahwah, NJ: Laurence Erlbaum Associates.
Pelaprat, E., & Cole, M. (2011, June 23). "Minding the gap": Imagination, creativity and human cognition. Integr Psych Behavior.
Sternberg, R. J. (2006). Cognitive Psychology (4th Edition ed.). Thomson Wadsworth.

From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] on behalf of Peter Smagorinsky [smago@uga.edu]
Sent: Thursday, June 21, 2012 11:22 AM
To: Anton Yasnitsky; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: RE: [xmca] RE: Smolucha article

Oops, yes, I did.
Does that make it a different question?

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Anton Yasnitsky
Sent: Thursday, June 21, 2012 1:58 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] RE: Smolucha article

Yes Peter, but didn't you initially inquire about CREATIVITY as higher psych. function? ---

From: Peter Smagorinsky <smago@uga.edu>
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 3:56:45 PM
Subject: [xmca] RE: Smolucha article

In the article, Smolucha asserts that to LSV, creativity is a higher mental function. (p. 59) This does not match my understanding of what a higher mental function is, i.e., a cultural concept. Creativity seems to me to be a means for developing a cultural concept, but not commensurate with one. Any help? Thx,p -----

In the quote below,
its author discusses IMAGINATION, though. I am not sure the two are the same...

ref to Smolucha, 2012, please.


 From: Peter Smagorinsky <smago@uga.edu>
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Sent: Thursday, June 21, 2012 1:42:31 PM
Subject: RE: [xmca] RE: Smolucha article

Just quickly, p. 60:
"It is clear from the preceding statements that Vygotsky included imagination among the higher mental functions."
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