Adjusting the Novelty Thermostat: Courting Creative Success Through Judicious Randomness

Kyle E. Jennings

Though creativity is usually defined as "novel and appropriate," this is most often understood to mean "as novel as possible, so long as appropriate." While this definition might be suitably applied to finished products, it is less obviously useful as a guiding value during the act of creation. This research tests this and other definitions by using computer simulations based on Campbell's "blind variation and selective retention" theory. Introducing a "temperature" parameter to reduce novelty's importance over time produces results superior to both an even combination of novelty and appropriateness and the prevailing "novel, so long as appropriate" definition. However, choosing the correct temperature adjustment schedule is essential. In this way, the simulations show that human decision processes might plausibly produce the same dynamics as Simulated Annealing, and thus that metaheuristic optimization can be an insightful theoretical guide for creativity researchers. The results also show the feasibility of Campbell's theory. Finally, they show that if creativity is to be a guiding value while creating, then it is best defined as "appropriately novel, and appropriate."

Subjects: 4. Cognitive Modeling; 15.7 Search

Submitted: Jan 25, 2008

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