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Distribution of creativity

'Great' creativity is a relatively rare phenomenon. The fact that genius does not appear regularly but in clusters was a phenomenon known since antiquity. Kroeber (1944: 18) quotes a Roman historian Valletius Paterculus who noted that clusters of geniuses appeared within relatively short periods and explained this by emulation, the desire to equal or surpass one's contemporaries.

Galton (1869; 1874) explained the fact of uneven distribution of creativity though history by the biological reasons: he believed that golden ages occur when the gene pools of civilized nations are relatively favourable and pure and that interbreed with inferior nations leads to decline in creativity. However, Kroeber (1944) who studied the occurrence of geniuses in various fields - philosophy, science, philology, sculpture, painting, drama, literature, and music - came to the conclusion that the incidence of genius fluctuates far more rapidly than the biological foundations of a culture, similarly to cultural patterns like artistic styles or scientific approaches. He also concluded that cultural growth spreads gradually from a local region to a large area and that in times of cultural decline the area shrinks upon itself.

Sorokin (1951) found that a total, national 'civilization' displays a notable creativity in various cultural fields not necessarily once, but two or more times; in most historical total 'civilizations' there have been two, three, or even more great blossomings. This result contradicts Spengler's and Toynbee's claim that each civilization has only one florescence.

Gray (1966) compiled a curve of creativity for Western civilization and stated that the curve agreed with Kroeber's main findings; namely, "that genius emerges in clusters, that such blossomings occur several times during civilization, that such peaks are rare and do not characterize most of a civilization's course, and that these peaks are of unequal duration." He tried to find the explanations of Kroeber's findings by advancing his epicyclical theory, in which history is seen as a series of concurrent cycles: an over-all economic cycle, a social cycle, and a political cycle. Each of these three cycles goes through four different stages: the formative, the developed, the florescent, and the degenerate. The stages of the economic, social and political cycles rotate at different speeds. When the florescent and developed stages of the three cycles coincide, we have clusters of creativity. Conversely, when the formative and degenerative stages of different cycles coincide, a falling off creativity is to be exposed.

Distribution of creativity. Dictionary of Creativity: Terms, Concepts, Theories & Findings in Creativity Research / Compiled and edited by Eugene Gorny., 2007.
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