Last semester, Psychology Professor Joachim Krueger offered a first-year seminar titled, “The Psychology of Creativity.” I was eager to hear about the course and get his take on creative process.
While Professor Krueger’s course was framed around psychology and featured academic readings, he described it as largely experimental and intended to encourage exploration. A core element of the class was a series of mini-projects, one of which involved interviewing Brown community members about their own creative processes. Since I’m currently engaged in conversations exploring creativity at Brown, I was particularly eager to hear about the students’ discussions with faculty members and alums about the ways in which they work creatively, overcome blocks, and work through ideas.
Professor Krueger told me his students came back from their interviews excited about what they’d heard. One student who intends to concentrate in the arts or humanities interviewed a professor working at the theoretical frontiers of math and connected with the professor’s discussion of his work. The creative energy was contagious, and the student saw ways to translate this energy to work both within and beyond the arts and humanities. This story speaks to fundamental elements of the creative process that transcend disciplinary boundaries, elements I keep encountering in my conversations here at Brown.
This creative movement across disciplinary boundaries also characterizes Professor Krueger’s approach to his own work. As we talked, he commented that he has always read beyond what is expected—in high school, he read more than the assigned texts, and today, he reads not just the standard journals in his field, but also a diverse mix of academic writing, nonfiction, and fiction. This allows him to draw from a wide range of materials and methods, and to remix these ideas in new ways. When he read Robinson Crusoe, for example, he read for psychological meaning rather than the expected literary interpretation. Using this lens and other frameworks, such as game theory, he has been able to craft a new analysis of the novel and its relevance—published on his Psychology Today blog.
The process of formulating and expressing these ideas is a creative act that feeds back into Professor Krueger’s teaching. This is clear from the design of his “Psychology of Creativity” seminar, in which students contributed from all over the disciplinary map and learned to understand the value of diverse approaches.
As Professor Krueger noted, creativity can play out anywhere, and connecting this concept to the activities students care about may be the greatest impact of this form of education. Professor Krueger’s students were able to connect the creative process to passions as diverse as contemporary art and environmental advocacy, forming a powerful catalyst for continued discovery and creativity across the university.