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The Wiley Handbook of Genius by Dean Keith Simonton

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16 Creative Genius A View from the Expert-Performance Approach

K. Anders Ericsson

When concepts were originally introduced as part of natural language it was difficult to define them scientifically. The common definition of genius refers to individuals with unusually large amounts of creativity, that is “the special abilities and traits that set great scientists apart from their lesser colleagues” (Simonton, 2004, p. 7). These traits can then be used to explain why some individuals were able to generate revolutionary achievements and products in the sciences and arts. Typical examples of achievements associated with genius are Newton's theory of gravitation and Picasso's paintings, which both stand out in revolutionary contrast to the work of their contemporary colleagues. Achievements of creative genius must by definition be unique, because if someone else had already produced similar products, then the criteria for creative contribution are not met. Once the creative contribution has been generated, communicated, and eventually recognized as a major contribution by the leaders in the associated domain of expertise (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996), then even independent regenerations by unaware individuals will not be recognized.

These criteria lead to major obstacles for studying the processes and acts of generating creative contributions, especially major creative contributions. There is often a considerable time interval between the time the creative contribution was originally ...

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