From Suzan Mazur at HuffPost:
(What Would Warhol Say?) Jonathan Schooler: The Science of Imagination
Inspired by Andy Warhol’s Factory? Not unimaginable. In any case, the John Templeton Foundation, with $5.6M or so from its deep pockets, has given birth to the Imagination Institute—-a Philadelphia think tank that for the last two years has been tapping an array of talent for insight into the creative process, hoping ultimately to come up with an “imagination quotient.” Three dozen scientific investigators at 16 institutions have been awarded Templeton research money related to the project. But can imagination really be quantified?
One of the Imagination Institute’s grantees is University of California, Santa Barbara psychologist Jonathan Schooler. Schooler and UCSB postdoctoral researcher, Claire Zedelius have been awarded $200,000 to find out how daydreaming influences creativity, particularly creative writing. Their interest is in whether intervention—-that is, guided daydreaming—-can lead to more inspired writing. [interview follows] More.
It’s an interesting question. As a writer/editor, writing instructor, and author coach for 45 years, I would say that imagination can’t be quantified because it is not one specific trait.
We can quantify height, length, width, depth, temperature, etc., because each of these measures refers to one specific physical feature. Once we agree on a measuring system, we can create and analyze data.
But imagination is not like that. One imaginative person can write an epic trilogy, another a successful sales pitch, a third a board game that sweeps the world. We agree that they all have imagination but they all show different traits.
I’m not saying that there is no way of studying imagination; many things that can’t be quantified can nonetheless be studied. But study would include a revival of traditional literary and artistic criticism according to schools of aesthetics—a far cry from the current habit of lavishly praising any work of the imagination that appears to have outgrown toddlership but maybe not kindergarten, so as to ensure that no one’s feelings are hurt. This I know is true: A writer will never progress without getting past the hurt feelings and reaching for excellence. Which sometimes takes decades.
Note: Mazur is the author of a number of books on the evolution controversies, including Public Evolution Summit on the Royal Society meeting last November.
See also: Suzan Mazur: NASA, tax dollars, space aliens, and religion…