Measuring Creative Imagery Abilities

Article (PDF Available)inFrontiers in Psychology 6(1591) · October 2015with 896 Reads
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01591
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Over the decades, creativity and imagination research developed in parallel, but they surprisingly rarely intersected. This paper introduces a new theoretical model of creative imagination, which bridges creativity and imagination research, as well as presents a new psychometric instrument, called the Test of Creative Imagery Abilities (TCIA), developed to measure creative imagery abilities understood in accordance with this model. Creative imagination is understood as constituted by three interrelated components: vividness (the ability to create images characterized by a high level of complexity and detail), originality (the ability to produce unique imagery), and transformativeness (the ability to control imagery). TCIA enables valid and reliable measurement of these three groups of abilities, yielding the general score of imagery abilities and at the same time making profile analysis possible. We present the results of nine studies on a total sample of more than 1,700 participants, showing the factor structure of TCIA using confirmatory factor analysis, as well as provide data confirming this instrument’s validity and reliability. The availability of TCIA for interested researchers may result in new insights and possibilities of integrating the fields of creativity and imagination science.
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Measuring Creative Imagery Abilities
Dorota M. Jankowska1, Maciej Karwowski1*
1Department of Educational Sciences, Academy of Special Education, Poland
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Frontiers in Psychology
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Article type:
Original Research Article
Received on:
06 Jul 2015
Accepted on:
02 Oct 2015
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02 Oct 2015
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Jankowska DM and Karwowski M(2015) Measuring Creative Imagery Abilities. Front. Psychol. 6:1591.
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Frontiers in Psychology |
New Test of Creative Imagination 1
RUNNING HEAD: New Test of Creative Imagination
Measuring Creative Imagery Abilities
Dorota M. Jankowska, Maciej Karwowski
Academy of Special Education, Poland
Authors’ Note and Acknowledgement
Dorota M. Jankowska, Maciej Karwowski, Department of Educational Sciences,
Academy of Special Education, Szczesliwicka St., 40, 02353 Warsaw, Poland.
Please address correspondence to Maciej Karwowski (
The study was supported by a grant from the National Science Center, Poland [grant
number UMO 2011/03/N/HS6/05153].
New Test of Creative Imagination 2
Over the decades, creativity and imagination research developed in parallel, but they
surprisingly rarely intersected. This paper introduces a new theoretical model of creative
visual imagination, which bridges creativity and imagination research, as well as presents a
new psychometric instrument, called the Test of Creative Imagery Abilities (TCIA),
developed to measure creative imagery abilities understood in accordance with this model.
Creative imagination is understood as constituted by three interrelated components: vividness
(the ability to create images characterized by a high level of complexity and detail),
originality (the ability to produce unique imagery), and transformativeness (the ability to
control imagery). TCIA enables valid and reliable measurement of these three groups of
abilities, yielding the general score of imagery abilities and at the same time making profile
analysis possible. We present the results of nine studies on a total sample of more than 1,700
participants, showing the factor structure of TCIA using confirmatory factor analysis, as well
as provide data confirming this instrument’s validity and reliability. The availability of TCIA
for interested researchers may result in new insights and possibilities of integrating the fields
of creativity and imagination science.
Keywords: creative imagination, vividness, originality, transformativeness, TCIA
New Test of Creative Imagination 3
1. Introduction
Imagination pervades human experience. The activity of visual imagination encompasses
creating, interpreting, and transforming vivid mental representations (Thompson, Hsiao, &
Kosslyn, 2011). Its creative function, which stems from engagement in the creative process, is
most often discussed in connection with the imaginary games of childhood (Hoff, 2005;
Singer & Singer, 1992) as well as artistic and scientific work (Root-Bernstein, 2014;
Rothenberg, 1995). However, the belief that creative imagination is one of the major human
abilities contributing to the effective use of the creative potential (Runco, Nemiro, &
Walberg, 1998) is not a matter of recent years only. The first documented study on
imagination was conducted among scientists nearly one and a half centuries ago (Galton,
1880), and with the development of research on creativity test instruments measuring visual
creative imagination were created. However, the existing tests do not take into account the
complexity of creative imagination, which became an impulse for developing the Test of
Creative Imagery Abilities (TCIA), whose theoretical assumptions as well as selected aspects
of validity and reliability we present in this paper. The instrument we propose enables profile
analysis of visual creative imagination, thereby treating imagination as a complex and
multidimensional disposition comprising specific characteristics (vividness, originality,
transformative ability) distinguished in the conjunctional model of creative imaging ability. In
this model, creative imagination is defined as ability to create and transform representations
that are based on the material of past observations but that significantly transcend them by
creating the so-called creative representations (see Dziedziewicz & Karwowski, 2015) (Figure
1). Although creative imagination understood in this way is part of the broad construct of
creative cognition (Finke, Ward, & Smith, 1992), we perceive creative imagination in a more
narrow way, than we do creative cognition.
---------- Insert Figure 1 Here --------
1.1.Problems with Measures of Creative Imagination
Test-based research on creativity originated with Guilfords (1950) theory of divergent
thinking. With time, Guilfords proposals of tasks measuring the characteristics of divergent
thinking gave rise to numerous tests, such as the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT;
Torrance, 1974) or Thinking Creatively in Action and Movement (TCAM; Torrance, 1981).
For many years, this tradition of creativity research remained the dominant approach. And
even though imagination measurement in psychology and related sciences has a longer
tradition than research on divergent thinking (Galton, 1880), it was the post-Guilfordian
orientation that exerted considerable influence on the testing of creative imagination, not the
other way around. The influence was so strong that the contribution of creative imagination
was included in the first tests for the assessment of divergent thinking, an example being the
“Imaginative Stories Task” in the Minnesota Test of Creative Thinking (MCTC; Goldman,
1965; Torrance, 1962), the original version of TCAM. The combination of these abilities in
divergent thinking resulted in a blurring of the concept of imagination, previously well
defined in the literature. Interestingly, many questionnaires for exploring visual imagination
were developed in parallel (e.g., Marks, 1973; Sheehan, 1967), measuring mainly the
following: (1) imagery vividness the clarity, complexity, and elaboration of the imagery
generated; (2) imagery control the ability to manipulate the imagery generated; and (3)
imagery style a preference for imagery-based or verbal strategies of encoding and
processing information (MacInnis, 1987). The assessment criteria in the newly developed test
measures were nearly identical with those in typical divergent thinking tests, for example:
flexibility, elaboration, originality, asymmetry, and abstraction in the Franck Drawing
Completion Test (FDCT; Anastasi & Schaefer, 1971), flexibility, elaboration, and originality
in the Visual Imagination Test (VIT; McHenry & Shouksmith, 1970), or flexibility and
New Test of Creative Imagination 4
originality in the Creative Imagination Test (CIT; Schubert, 1973). On the other hand, the
influence of Guilfordian tests on the practice of testing and creative imagination assessment
may not be so obvious as it is described to be. Long before Guilford's (1950) famous address,
which gave impulse to the development of creativity psychology, Simpson (1922) presented
the Test for Creative Imagination (Visual), in which the counterpart of transformativeness
was the creative changes indicator, which was the prototype for the flexibility of thinking.
This measure was computed based on the product of the number of all the drawings produced
in the test and the number of changes between the drawings (i.e., the number of transition
moments between different categories). It can therefore be supposed that first definitions of
imagery transformation ability were positioned within the area of meanings and their
interpretations, just like the flexibility of thinking.
With time, many empirical studies appeared that demonstrated a weak relationship
between imagination and divergent thinking (Campos & Gonzalez, 1993; Campos & Pérez,
1989; Parrott & Strongman, 1985), which is confirmed by the meta-analysis summing up
these studies (LeBoutillier & Marks, 2003). It therefore became justified to treat these
constructs as distinct and relatively independent components of creativity, each having its
own measurement specificity. Nevertheless, the influence of the post-Guilfordian tradition
was still so strong that even after the publication of the Test of Creative Thinking by Jellen
and Urban (TCT-DP; Jellen & Urban, 1986), which, in some sense, overcame the dominance
of the Guilfordian approach in thinking about creativity, the scoring criteria in new creative
imagination tests were still a reproduction of fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration.
For instance, in Prueba de Imaginación Creativa (PIC; Barraca, Poveda, Artola, Mosteino,
Sanchez, & Ancillo, 2004) five scales were distinguished, of which four are repetitions of the
components of divergent thinking: fluency of ideas, flexibility of thinking, originality of the
responses, elaboration of the responses, and use of creative details (color, shadows,
expansiveness, rotations, new perspectives). And while references to fluency, which can be
linked with the generativity (fertility) of imagination, are to some extent justifiable, defining
the originality of the generated imagery in terms of the rarity of their occurrence is an
erroneous oversimplification that results from copying the scoring criteria for divergent
thinking. The creative aspect of imagery manifests itself in generating new ideas and
hypotheses, which are rare by nature, but above all they are innovative (Magid, Sheskin, &
Schulz, 2015; Ward, 1994). This way of thinking about the originality of imagery is visible in
the Test of Creative Imagination (TCI; Karwowski, 2008a, 2008b), where the participant's
task is to imagine and draw schematic drawings representing something that does not exist
but, in the participant's opinion, should exist.
Reproducing the scoring criteria for divergent in creative imagination tests resulted in
the similarity of test tasks. For example, the FDCT matrix is almost an exact copy of the
matrix in the figural part of TTCT Picture Completion. The situation is similar in the case of
PIC and the Test of Creative Imagination (TCI, Ren, Li, Zhang, & Wang, 2012). They all
consist of incomplete figures to be completed and captioned, the difference being that FDCT
has 12 figures, PIC has 4, and in TTCT and TCI there are 10 of them. This is undoubtedly a
reference to the Sketches Test, in which the participant is given a simple basic figure, such as
a circle, that he or she is supposed to complement in such a way as to produce a recognizable
sign (Guilford & Hoepfner, 1966). A similarity is also observable in verbal tasks. In the
version of PIC that is intended for children, the tasks in the verbal part require describing: (1)
the possible consequences of all squirrels turning into dinosaurs, (2) new applications of
plastic pipes, and (3) various endings of a situation presented in a picture. In the verbal part of
the TCI, participants generate alternative endings for a briefly outlined story. It is not difficult
to notice that these are typical tasks from the Remote Consequences Tests of the Unusual
Uses Tests (Guilford, 1967). However, they are not always a copy of Guilford's tasks. In the
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