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January 22, 2019

How to look at art: Creativity and logic: Avoid dangerous stereotyping

Isaac Mokua, 22, Nairobi - Morphed Series, other (Digital Media)
Isaac Mokua, 22, Nairobi - Morphed Series, other (Digital Media)

Recently while browsing through academic research, I came across the statement: “Creativity enables people to think in a novel manner, whereas intelligence in a logical manner.” 

Does it imply that creativity lacks logic and both notions are mutually exclusive? I feel this needs clarification. Creativity and logic are not opposites. Separating logical and creative thinking is dangerous stereotyping. It skews our understanding and prevents us from paying serious attention to creativity.  

We are made to believe that logic leads to good solutions. This is because every great invention is always logical in hindsight, according to the world authority on creativity, Edward De Bono. History is full of discoveries made by chance, but then written-up with a detailed logical discovery process. As an example, in his book ‘Why So Stupid?’[1] De Bono asks us to solve a problem. You try it, too: ‘How many matches are needed in a tennis tournament with 131 players?’ Its solution is logical in hindsight, yet nearly eight per cent of people don’t see it. De Bono and neurology Professor Richard Restak believe that logic is less significant in everyday thinking and, in fact, does not determine our rational choices (De Bono, 2006, Restak, 2006 )[2]. At best, logic can serve our perceptions (starting concepts). If starting concepts are faulty, however right logic is, the results will be wrong.

People who think creatively know their thought process is logical. However, De Bono makes an important point of distinguishing logic as the traditional ‘rock’ logic of ‘this is so/not so and this fits/doesn’t fit’ and the ‘movement’ logic of ‘what happens next?’ and what does it lead to?’ Being a strict judgement system, the traditional logic takes us from one certainty to another, where every step should be ‘correct’. Such logic by definition can’t help us to deal with our rapidly changing world and build a better future.

De Bono blames the ancient Greek thinkers for creating the ‘game of logic’. It was introduced to Europe, where the church needed logic to demonstrate the importance of ‘truth’ and prove heretics wrong. Another blame for separating creativity and logic lies on the right-left brain myth. During the 1960s and 70s, following the experiments on the split-brain patients, everyone had to be divided into the right-brain and left-brain types: the left side of the brain was considered to be logical, analytical and academic, while the right side creative, intuitive and artistic. 

Neuroscience has since proved this assertion wrong. The brain is organised in circuits rather than centres. All thinking is performed by both sides of the brain. In contrast to the old research, latest studies find no difference in problem-solving of arts and science students. (Williamson, 2010, Furnhama, Batey & Booth, 2011 )[3].

Far from being separate, creativity and logic are closely connected. Creativity is powerful determinant of analytical and reasoning skills. Nobel Prize scientists, for example, are 15 to 25 times more artistically creative than their average peers. Top-performing university graduates of science and engineering are 3 to 10 times more likely to be better at arts than the general public (Root-Bernstein & Root-Bernstein 2013 )[4].


Alla Tkachuk is a champion of creativity and the founder of creativity training programme in Kenya, MASK, [email protected]



[1] De Bono, E., Why So Stupid?, Blackhall, 2006

[2] Restak, R., The Naked Brain, Random House, 2006

[3] Williamson, Peter K., The creative problem solving skills of arts and science students, 2010. Furnhama Adrian, Batey Mark, Booth Tom W., Patela Vikita, Lozinskaya Dariya, Individual difference predictors of creativity in Art and Science students, 2011

[4] Root-Bernstein Robert, Root-Bernstein Michele, Scientific discovery and innovation can depend on engaging more students in the arts, 2013


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