Frank Barron – Pioneer in the Psychology of Creativity

Frank Barron

Frank Xavier Barron
(June 17, 1922, Lansford, Pennsylvania – October 6, 2002, Santa Cruz, California) (Aged 80)
Nationality: United States of America
Category: Scientists
Occupation:  Psychologists
Specification: Psychology of Creativity
Unique distinction: A pioneer in the psychology of creativity and in the study of human personality, professor of Psychology at the University of California Santa Cruz

1. The creative genius may be at once naive and knowledgeable, being at home equally with primitive symbolism and rigorous logic.
2. The sorcery and charm of imagination, and the power it gives to the individual to transform his world into a new world of order and delight, makes it one of the most treasured of all human capacities.
3. The creative individual not only respects the irrational in himself but also courts the most promising source of novelty in his own thought.
4. The making of thoughts is the most common instance of human participation in the creative act.
5. Never take a person’s dignity: it is worth everything to them, and nothing to you.
6. The refusal to choose is a form of choice; disbelief is a form of belief.
7. A creative person respects the creative spark in other individual men, and in all men (and women).
8. Creativity requires taking what Einstein called ‘a leap into the unknown.’ This can mean putting your beliefs, reputation and resources on the line as you suffer the slings and arrows of ridicule.

Achievements and contributions:

Social and professional position: Frank Barron was American Psychologist, Professor, Non-Fiction Writer, and Poet.
The main contribution (Best Known for): A pioneer in the psychology of creativity and in the study of human personality. He has approved holistic and cosmological approaches to Creativity and discovered the complex interplay between creativity, personal health and successful personal life.

Contributions to the psychology of creativity:

1. Philosophical, methodological and cosmological approaches to Creativity. Barron emphasized that psychology gains great strength from its origin in philosophy and said that creativity research had reopened “some of the doors that were closed to psychology when it self-consciously separated itself from philosophy” (1975).
1.1. He considered holism and emergent evolution as the fundamental factors of change, discontinuity, and creation. At that, the laws of evolution were the basis of the relationships between complexity and simplicity, differentiation and integration, and order and disorder.
Barron argued, that the creative process itself embodies an essential tension between the establishment of environmental constancies and the interest in new experiences and saw a person as a dynamic system in the process of constant self-renewal and self-reorganization.
1.2. He used a holistic, integrated, multidimensional approach to creativity and revealed in his works the deepest connections between its philosophical, religious, artistic and spiritual aspects.
1.3. Cosmological motive. Barron believed, that a key ingredient of creativity was deep motivation, or “the cosmological motive” which manifested itself as “the desire to create one’s own universe of meaning, personally defined” (1995).
Barron cited N. Berdyaev: “But man as a person, the same man, gains mastery over egocentric self-confinement by disclosing a universe in himself… Personality is a universe, it is filled with universal content” (1975).
2. Essence of Creativity. “All creation is collaboration”. He wrote that creativity manifested itself as the rhythmic alteration and a genuine resolution or synthesis of certain common antinomies. “Apparently contradictory principles of action, thought, and feeling, which usually must be sacrifice done to the other, are instead expressed fully in one sequence, the dialectic leading at special moments to an unusual integration” (1964, 1995).
Barron argued that the creative process was inherent in everyone and penetrated the activities of everyday personal life. Moreover, creativity had not had very much relationship with conventional IQ as measured by intelligence tests and could be considered a source of beauty, and openness to dipper universe meaning. Barron wrote: “Creativity is a quest for meaning. It is an attempt to penetrate the mystery of the self, and perhaps the even greater mystery of Being” (1997).
3. Nature of the creative person. Barron conducted his pioneering studies of highly creative people that consisted of testing and in-depth interviews with writers, architects, research scientists, and mathematicians during the 1950s and 1960s at the IPAR at UC Berkeley.
As a result of these studies he has identified Barron identified key characteristics of highly creative individuals:
3.1. Cosmological commitment. He noted that creative individuals have one distinguishing characteristic. “The thing that was important was something that might be called a cosmological commitment”. “It was a powerful motive to create meaning and to leave a testament of the meaning which that individual found in the world, and in himself in relation to the world” (1965).
3.2. Intuition. Creative people have a high level of intuition. “So our finding was that intuition, linked with some degree of introversion, was related to creativity” (1965).
3.3. Preference for complexity. Frank Barron said: “Creative subjects, sought to find a way to take something quite complex and, in it, find a simple order. This is something like the definition of elegance in mathematical explanation. And the same, I think, probably applies to a work of art. So that frequently the final product or explanation is amazingly simple but is based on an extremely complex substrate of empirical or individual observations” (1965). “Their universe is thus more complex, and in addition, they usually lead more complex lives, seeking tension in the interest of the pleasure they obtain upon its discharge” (1958). Creative people like things messy, disordered, ambiguous, and asymmetric but they also have a strong motivation to bring order and definition to the world.
3.4. Integration of dichotomies. Barron argued that Creative people used the holistic approach to antinomies, polarities, or oppositions. Creative individuals were able to entertain many opposites in psychic life simultaneously. They may be at once naive and knowledgeable, being at home equally with primitive symbolism and rigorous logic, maybe highly disciplined, yet quite free, at once masculine and feminine. “The creative person is both more primitive and more cultivated, more destructive, a lot madder and a lot saner, than the average person” (1958).
3.5. High levels of ego-strength. Barron developed The Barron Ego-strength Scale (1953) which indicated positive aspects of functioning and psychological well-being. He argued, that creative people appeared highly neurotic on personality tests but also showed high levels of ego-strength that allowed them to rally from setbacks and hardship. Creative individuals also have:
– independence of judgment;
– the ability to go against the mainstream, “the creative subjects maintained their independence and expressed the correct opinion, rejecting the consensus”;
– a willingness to take risks;
– adventurousness and courage to commit themselves at some point which was important in their lives.
4. Creative growth and expansion of consciousness. Barron believed, that: “Creative people are especially observant, and they value accurate observation (telling themselves the truth) more than other people do.”(1958), “I think there’s an increase in complexity and openness, simply as a result of the perception of a wider range of stimuli in quite common sensory modalities.
Here I’m thinking of such things as the increased vividness of colour, enhanced perception of detail, greater acuteness in listening to music” (1965). “The evolutionary task, in the individual and in the species, is to create an ego that is itself capable of including the states of consciousness we now call paranormal… the ego already possessed of considerable scope is more likely to be able to use such an experience further to grow and enlarge itself…” (1968).
5. Study of human personality. Barron’s research has helped deepen understanding of personality and personality functioning. His works shifted personality psychology’s focus away from psychopathology toward psychological and personal health and helped to understand the interplay between creativity and successful personal life.
Honours and Awards:  Frank Barron was a World War II veteran. In 1969 he was awarded the American Psychological Association’s Richardson Creativity Award. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, La Salle College, in 1979. He was president of the APA’s Humanistic Division from 1989 to 1990.
In 1995 he was honoured with the Rudolf Arnheim Award for outstanding contribution to psychology and the arts. In 2005 an endowment was established in Professor Barron’s honour, which provides an annual Frank X. Barron Award in Creativity Research.
Major works:
Barron F. The Psychology of Imagination. – “Scientific American”, CXCIX, September 1958.
Barron, F. X. (1963). Creativity and Psychological Health. Princeton: Van Nostrand. Barron, F. X. (1963). Scientific Creativity. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
Barron, F. X. (1965). The Creative Process and the Psychedelic Experience. Explorations magazine, Berkeley California, June-July.
Barron, F. X. (1968). Creativity and personal freedom. New York: Van Nostrand.
Barron, F. X. (1969). Creative Person, Creative Process. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
Barron, F. X. (1972). Artists in the Making. New York: Seminar Press.
Barron, F. X. (1979).The Shaping of Personality. New York: Harper & Row.
Barron, F. X. (1995). No rootless flower. An ecology of creativity. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton. Barron, F. X., Montuori, A., Barron, A. (1997). Creators on creating. New York, N.Y.:Penguin.

Career and personal life:

Family background: Frank Barron was born on June 17, 1922, in the coal-mining town of Lansford, Pennsylvania, to Francis and Sarah Ellen Barron.
Education: In 1937 he attended La Salle University, from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1942. He received his Master of Arts from the University of Minnesota in 1948, and his PhD from the University of California at Berkeley in 1950.
Influenced by: Dante, Augustine, Yeats, Galton, Pavlov, Fechner, W. James, Freud, Jung, Bergson, Teilhard de Chardin, Binet and Piaget.
Career highlights:  Barron served in the U.S. Army (1943 – 1946) in Europe as a medical sergeant. He taught as a visiting professor at Harvard, Bryn Mawr College, University of Hawaii, and Wesleyan and from 1949 to 1968 worked as a founding member of the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research (IPAR) at UC Berkeley.
From 1969 until his retirement in 1992 he taught courses in personality and human creativity at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Personal life:
Family: Barron married Nancy Jean Camp in 1961, and they had three children: Francis Charles Xavier, Brigid Jessica Sarah, and Anthea Rose Maeve.
Personality: Barron had a gentle heart, and a great sense of humour and was impressed with his erudition, subtlety of mind and love of language. He was fond of poetry and wrote a book of poems “Ghosts”.
Barron died on October 6, 2002, in Santa Cruz.