The Nature of the Creative Process in Art: A Psychological Study

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The involvement of emotions in human creation was promising due to its potential for explaining a new qualitative level of the human psyche within which emotions are inseparable from intellectual operations. Concentrated heavily on artistic perezhivanie , Vygotsky could not extend its use to other types of human performance in which the individual is actively involved as the creative subject of the action. However, perezhivanie was a key concept in his emphasis on the emotional side of human life.

His dialogue with Freud and Ribot also evidenced his interest in the relation of those topics with mental disorders. So, in a dialogue with Ribot, Vygotsky stated:. This new approach can be described approximately as follows: The psychologists proceed from the irrefutable association that exists between emotion and imagination. We know that every emotion has a psychic expression in addition to a physical one. Consequently, an emotion is expressed by the mimic, pantomimic, secretory, and somatic responses of our organism. It also requires some expression of our imagination.

We find the best evidence for this view among the so called objectless emotions. A patient who suffers from obsessive fear is emotionally sick, his fear is irrational; and so in order to rationalize it, he imagines that everyone is pursuing and persecuting him. At that time, Vygotsky was closer to subjectivity than at any other moment of his work. Nonetheless, in that last stage of his work, Vygotsky was still far from the position that any idea, once it becomes subjectively configured, distorts reality, creating imaginary realities, which is the cornerstone of our proposal of subjectivity.

Art was the path for Vygotsky to advance a new and original representation of the human mind. Following his previous idea, Vygotsky took an audacious step forward:. This means that in essence, all our fantasy experiences take place on a completely real emotional basis. We see, therefore, that emotion and imagination are not two separate processes; on the contrary, they are the same process. We can regard a fantasy as the central expression of an emotional reaction.

This is an argument which implies that objectivity should be considered as a culturally produced concept. Properly human processes and realities are fictional, not because they are non-objective, but because they are new realities invented by human beings, which progressively separate them more and more from nature. This human nature is inseparable from a plot of different facts and conditions that are not controlled by individuals or social instances; this fact defines all human processes and realities as objective.

A Psychological Study

Nonetheless, human realities, processes and facts share a qualitative attribute that does not exist in the rest of natural phenomena; their subjective character turns human beings into creators, making them capable of creating new, original realities and processes within which, in turn, subjectivity emerges. Human realities and their objectivity are inseparable from human actions, and therefore, for human beings, objectivity is always subjectively produced in human relations.

The relevance of this process is that the fictional reality of culture is part of the genesis and development of the human mind, and the human mind defines new moments in the production of culture, in an endless process within which neither culture nor human mind are objectified by one another, something that Vygotsky never made explicit in his work.

The topic of the symbolic was very narrowly treated by Vygotsky, who mainly emphasized the sign among the many diverse symbols, symbolical devices and realities Zinchenko, It is necessary to say, however, that there are not any more obscure topics than these two Vygotsky is referring to sentiments and fantasy and although they have been subject to more development and examination in recent times, at least until today, unfortunately, we have no general recognized and elaborated system for the study of sentiments and fantasy.

Focused on these topics, Vygotsky created the basis for advancing new ways in the study of motivation and creativity. For this reason, I think it is necessary to propose another method for the psychology of art, which needs a clear methodological basis. Against this proposal, I will frequently object to what is often said in relation to the study of the unconscious: the unconscious is, according to its own meaning, something not recognized by us and therefore not clear for us, and for this reason, it could not become the object of scientific research. Vygotsky, , pp. In the Soviet Union, epistemological discussions in particular were taboo due to their philosophical implications for a science ruled by a strict objectivity based on the empirical correspondence between theory and empirical facts.

We stated in the first chapter that this point of view was wrong and that practice magnificently denies it. This shows that science studies not only immediate and recognized facts, but also a series of phenomena and events that can be studied only indirectly by means of footsteps and vestiges, and with the help of material that is not only completely different from what we study but which is often false.

These natural and objective methodological positions were also defended by Vygotsky between and Vygotsky, Leontiev, a fact that, taken together with the omission of Soviet psychology regarding the topics discussed by Vygotsky in that book, contributes to explaining the lack of attention for this book in Soviet psychology. That edition had little impact in the Soviet Union. No matter how distant this prologue was written in relation to the original version of the book, to some extent it permits an explanation of why the book was published so late, as well as of the slight impact it had in Soviet psychology.

At that time a battle was still being waged with the idealistic psychology that dominated the most important psychological research center of the country — the Institute of Psychology of the University of Moscow, headed by professor Chelpanov. At that time, Vygotsky was still a young man within scientific psychology, and it is also possible to say an unexpected man.

Leontiev, , p.

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It is curious from a historical perspective that, even after Stalinism was officially overcome, the political discourse of Leontiev continued the same arguments developed by Soviet psychology in the s, an expression of pressure and institutional political control at a time when social fear strongly characterized the social subjectivity of the country. The arguments given by Leontiev in are similar to those that supported the most conservative sector of Soviet psychology in the s and 30s.

The Nature of the Creative Process in Art

In , Leontiev continued to defend socialist realism. After forty years of claiming that Soviet psychologists had done much with Vygotsky and after him, many of the positions in this psychological book should be interpreted in another way — from the position of contemporary representations of activity and human consciousness. According to Leontiev, Vygotsky developed a few ideas of his own in the book. The focus of Activity Theory at that time was activity itself, and consciousness was understood as the epiphenomenon of this focus Zinchenko, , Behavior and social determinism became central to the definition of an objective psychology, which Kornilov and his group considered as a Marxist psychology.

The concepts of higher psychological functions, sign, mediation and internalization, which were central in this instrumental period were replaced by concepts like perezhivanie , sense and social situation of development. It is amazing that these concepts were largely overlooked by both Soviet and Western psychology until very recent times. The concept of word sense, as formulated by Vygotsky opened a new path to advance on consciousness as a psychological system. Sense, as defined by Vygotsky, is:. Sense is a dynamic, fluid, and complex formation which has several zones that vary in their stability.

Meaning is only one of these zones of the sense that the word acquires in the context of speech. As sense was defined by Vygotsky as a quality of the word, in fact the word itself is transformed into a psychological unit, embodying several psychological facts that arise in consciousness as a result of its emergence.

Undoubtedly, the influence of K. Lewin and his group on Vygotsky was strong in that last stage of his work Bozhovich, ; Yarochevsky, ; Yasnitsky, , ; Zavershneva, Individuals were understood as inseparable from the environment and the concept of relationship became central for the understanding of the relationship between individuals and their social environment. For Vygotsky, perezhivanie appears to be the psychological term to explain that unit. To state a certain, general, formal position, it would be correct to say that the environment determines the development of the child through perezhivanie of the environment.

Most essential, therefore, is rejection of the absolute indicators of the environment; the child is part of the social situation, and the relationship between the child and the environment and between the environment and the child occurs through perezhivanie and the activity of the child himself. Nonetheless, the concept as such is vaguely defined in its psychological nature, leaving many theoretical gaps to be filled. Be that as it may, his focus seemed to be concentrated on the rejection of the absolute indicators of the environment, something that was extremely revolutionary in relation to the way social environment was understood by behavioral psychology and by Soviet psychology as well, that always had important convergences with a behavioral representation of psychology.

Bozhovich expressed this failure by Vygotsky as follows:. Bozhovich, , p. That effort was clear in this next assumption by Bozhovich:. As result of the lack of a new ontological definition related to human psychological processes in Soviet psychology, these processes continued to be vaguely defined by the concept of psyche, and Bozhovich defined perezhivanie as an affective formation 2. However, for this representation to advance forward, it would be necessary to transcend the taxonomy of concepts by which human motivation has historically been explained, such as needs, desires, among others.

The necessary step forward to be done demands a theoretical link capable to explain how emotions become symbolical processes having a cultural genesis; body and culture become inseparable through this possible connection. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Bastick, T. Intuition: How we think and act.

The creative process of a master artist - William Kentridge - TEDxJohannesburgSalon

Richardson, C. Creativity research in music education: A review. Council for Research in Music Education, 74 83 , Gardner, H. New York: Basic Books. Finke, R. Imagery, creativity, and emergent structure. Consciousness and Cognition, 5 , Boden, M. Creativity and artificial intelligence. Artificial Intelligence, , Simonton, D. Cognitive, personal, developmental, and social aspects. American Psychologist, 55 1 , Dietrich, A. The cognitive neuroscience of creativity. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 11 6 , Pressing, J. Improvisation: Methods and models. Sloboda Ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Smith, S. The creative cognition approach. Peretz, I. The biological foundations of music. Dupoux Ed. Koelsch, S. Toward a neural basis of music perception. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 9 12 , Thaut, M. The musical brain: An artful biological necessity. Karger Gazette: Music and Medicine, 70 , Dissanayake, E. A hypothesis of the evolution of art from play. Leonardo, 7 , The artification hypothesis and its relevance to cognitive science, evolutionary aesthetics, and neuroaesthetics.

Cognitive Semiotics, 5 , In the beginning, evolution created religion and the arts. Vogeley, K. Essential functions of the human self model are implemented in the prefrontal cortex. Damasio, A. New York: Putnam. Shallice, T. Deficits in strategy application following frontal lobe damage in man. Brain, , Frith, C. The role of the prefrontal cortex in higher cognitive functions.

Cognitive Brain Research, 5 , Baddeley, A. Exploring the central executive. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 49 A , Fuster, J. Temporal processing: Structure and function of the human prefrontal cortex. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, , Posner, M. Attention: The mechanism of consciousness. Dehaene, S. Toward a cognitive science of consciousness: Basic evidence and a workspace framework. Cognition, 79 , Some notes on brain, imagination and creativity. Shubik Eds.


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Lhermitte, F. Ludmer, R. Uncovering camouflage: Amygdala activation predicts long-term memory of induced perceptual insight. Neuron, 69 , Hamann, S. Amygdala activity related to enhanced memory for pleasant and aversive stimuli. A number of dementias are associated with particular symptom profiles e. Atypical presentations and rarer dementias highlight the range of cognitive skills which may become vulnerable in anyone with a dementia as the condition progresses. Equally this heterogeneity serves to underline the relative preservation of certain skills and abilities well into a disease course when other aptitudes may be perceived to be profoundly compromised.

It is against this complex, evolving cognitive background that different forms of individual and collective creativity in people with dementia must be considered. The idea of creativity is surprisingly recent. As Pope argues in his historical and critical guide to the concept the first recorded usage of creativity in English occurs only in This hegemonic narrative not only informs shared ideas about age and creativity McMullan and Smiles, but of central relevance for our discussion here, also influences the ways in which notions of creativity relate or more pertinently do not relate to people living with a dementia.

Focusing on the characteristics and capacities of an individual defined as particularly creative, the narrative understands creativity as something psychologically inherent to a creative individual Osborne, Recognising creativity and the production of creative acts as collective as well as individual Becker, and also associated as much with process as product Plucker and Beghetto, , we explore the opportunities and constraints that are experienced by people living with a dementia in a variety of contexts and the ways in which these may extend our understandings of artistic creativity.

The ways in which social practise i. Locating creativity primarily as a cognitive domain limits, however, the applicability of creativity as a construct in dementia research and care. As cognitive capacities decline and become less and less accessible it is important that researchers and clinicians do not assume that the potential for creative activity is eliminated.

The absence of a precise definition of a concept such as creativity can be problematic for research but arguably, it may also be that a universal definition of creativity and specifically, creativity and the arts, limits its applicability across people and environments and a more situated perspective is necessary Clarke et al. For example, there are aspects of the definition offered by Plucker et al. Whilst an in-depth review of the multiple prevailing definitions of creativity is beyond the scope of this article, four appear highly relevant to conceptualising the arts, creativity and dementias.

Two of the components resonate well with dementias. Utility refers to creative work perceived as such by the producer of the work and the recipient, producing a landmark in social or cultural environment and addressing moral issues. These components expand the concept of creativity to include the role of a socio-cultural context, individual perceptions and responses from others that build on a more inclusive concept of creativity beyond cognitive factors. This framework is relevant to our discussion in that it outlines the inherently interrelated nature of the various aspects of creative endeavour.

Above all, his framework places the creator in our work the person with a dementia in a broad context of material, social and cultural phenomena and relations. Yet, given that this person may not have spoken for months her poem might provide insights into her experience of living with dementia and can be understood as a creative response at this point in her life. Although appearing quite similar, mini-c creativity is an internal process that consists of ideas and connexions that may not always be visible to anyone except the creator and can be challenging to measure, understand and value in the dementias.

The inherent flexibility of this framework offers the possibility of developing longitudinal research; it fits well across different types of dementia, addresses challenges in measuring and understanding creativity as impairment increases over time and takes into consideration changes in the home, community, hospital and residential environments, e. Over the past 10 years, there has been an increasing interest in research on dementia, the arts and creativity across different disciplines Palmiero et al.

Creative expression in artistic activities such as painting or making music, for example, has been found to be an important way for people with a dementia to express and access emotions even when cognitive abilities are diminishing McLean, ; Zeilig et al. Rather than as a form of treatment for cognitive decline, creative activities involving the arts are often used in the context of therapy as part of the treatment of behavioural and emotional problems in dementias Cowl and Gaugler, Previous research argued that art therapy was a potentially beneficial non-pharmacological intervention for dementia to improve quality of life Mimica and Kalini, However, optimal conditions in the design of art interventions for the dementias to foster creativity need to be identified Chancellor et al.

This was reflected in a recent review of studies on art therapies and dementia revealing incoherent methodologies and tools used to assess creativity where a majority of studies focused on and judged the final product e. Different forms of arts-based creative expression have been adopted for dementia populations e.

Additionally, in a blocked randomisation design with individuals with moderate to severe dementia engaging in singing, listening to, and creating music, a reduction of agitated behaviours was observed during the intervention as well as at 1-month follow-up Lin et al. Finally, Fritsch et al. In a follow-up study with the same intervention, significantly improved communication skills both with carers and peers were also observed in people with a dementia who had participated in a creative expression intervention through storytelling Phillips et al.

In a review of studies and case reports on creativity in dementia, Palmiero et al. Furthermore, creativity and creative expression have been found to look different depending on the type of dementia and its corresponding area of the brain as well as the context of the creative activity.

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Based on a review by Gretton and ffytche , it appears possible that a unique artistic signature exists for each type of dementia diagnosis with different expressions of creativity in visual art depending on the area of damage in the brain. Research looking at creativity and dementia with Lewy bodies DLB , which examined drawings of a visual artist before and after the onset of the dementia, discovered a gradual decline in all artistic qualities except for novelty as the disease progressed Drago et al.

Lower ability levels for creative expression have also been identified in individuals with a diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia Joy and Furman, due to degeneration of the frontal and temporal regions of the brain. According to de Souza et al. However, the question arises, even though artistic expression changes after onset of dementia, does this imply a reduction of creativity or a different form of creativity?

Likewise, what type of creativity is being considered? For the purposes of this paper, we are interested in understanding everyday artistic creativity Richards, , most decidedly being of the little-c or mini-c variety where the focus is on the non-expert Kaufman and Beghetto, However, there is currently no agreed definition of co-creativity and therefore the concept itself remains somewhat indistinct. The emphasis in business and design contexts is upon the transfer of value from an end or predefined product to a shared process in which all those involved play an integral role in bringing something that is mutually valued into existence Branco et al.

Artistic co-creativity as theorised and practised with people with a dementia shares some similarity to the understandings offered by design and business, in particular the possibility that distinctions can be erased between the artist-producer and participant-artist Zeilig et al.

Equally, the emphasis on the equal contribution of all involved is pertinent. However, it fundamentally differs conceptually in that the objective is not to co-design a product or work toward a single composition or performance. The work of Matarasso has been informative here. He similarly discusses co-creation in the context of arts-based projects and how artists do not instruct but rather disperse the authority associated with their skills, thereby privileging the creative process over an end product.

However, this is not to imply that lone creativity does not also involve intense and embodied engagement with the processes of creating. These authors suggest that flow, an integral part of the creative process, is particularly important for visual artists who work in two dimensions Banfield and Burgess, , p. The distinction in terms of co-creativity is that creative process and allied experiences of flow are more likely to be shared between two people or by multiple people at group events. Thus, although there is not currently a single agreed definition for co-creativity it is characterised by a number of key features including centrally, a focus on shared process, the absence of a single author hence unity and shared ownership , inclusivity, reciprocity and relationality.

Co-creativity relies on dialogic and empathic approaches Sennett, where through the process of exchange, understandings are expanded, although not necessarily resolved. This is in contrast to dialectic encounters which tend to lead to closure Sennett, , p. Above all, it contrasts with notions of the lone creative genius that have tended to dominate views of creativity. The role and value of the creative arts for people living with a dementia has been widely appreciated Young et al.


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  7. There is thus a nascent but steadily growing recognition that people living with a dementia may be able to engage co-creatively with the arts Kontos et al. Co-creativity using the arts extends an invitation to participate in an aesthetic process and allows unique opportunities for communication and expression. The possibility that co-creativity can challenge the dominant biomedical perspective that associates the dementias with irretrievable loss and decline by creating opportunities for creative agency is a foundational premise of the projects presented below.

    As a process and as a tool or strategy for self-actualisation, in which micro-acts of artistic creativity gain significant importance within a group setting, co-creative activity may therefore be positively associated with the maintenance and promotion of various aspects of health and wellbeing Price and Tinker, as well as providing important opportunities for playfulness and fun.

    A search of the literature revealed no studies that examined how people with a dementia perceive and appreciate their own artistic creativity. We have found this omission to be problematic in that creativity has become defined by others e. One recent systematic review Nyman and Szymczynska, , p. Although changing, the perspectives of people with a dementia have historically not been taken into consideration when planning services or undertaking research Wilkinson, Any conceptualisation of creativity and dementia, we argue, needs to take into consideration the perspectives of those with a dementia along with caregivers, both formal and informal.

    As part of the development of our understanding of creativity and the dementias we felt it essential to seek the perspectives of people with a dementia and caregivers about this topic. In preparation for this article the authors sought to broaden their understanding of artistic creativity and the dementias beyond the research literature by having a series of conversations with people with a dementia and caregivers.

    Not designed as a research project that sought to generate new data, the following questions helped to form our conversation: What does creativity mean to you in your day to day life? How do you personally understand artistic creativity? How does creativity impact dementia and how does dementia impact creativity?

    Is creativity always something positive, and if not, when is it not positive? Supplementary Table S1 provides a sample of responses, which along with previous and ongoing research, have contributed to our conceptualisation of how artistic creativity is experienced by those with a dementia and caregivers. Over a 2-year period — the authors, an interdisciplinary group of researchers, artists and media professionals, have been involved in a series of art experiments at Created Out of Mind 1 a Wellcome Trust funded project examining the potential of different art forms and cultural activities to help better understand the experience of the dementias and likewise, to appreciate how the dementias might influence our understanding of artistic creativity.

    This section reports on several of those ongoing and novel initiatives and presents new methodologies that have not yet been used in creativity and dementia research. These diverse projects occurred across different dementias and levels of impairment in community and residential care settings as well as in more traditional laboratory environments and in public forums.

    All projects have been ethically reviewed and approved by faculty ethics panels at either University College London or Canterbury Christ Church University. Some of these projects have been presented at conferences, others will be written up for journal articles whilst others are early days research that will be further developed.


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    About one-third of people with dementia live in residential care and approximately two thirds of people who live in care homes are thought to have dementia Department of Health, Care homes face many conflicting pressures involved in delivering day-to-day care, often described as task focussed, and despite best intentions, there is often limited scope for staff and residents to engage in meaningful activities together.

    In many instances this is motivated by a wish to improve the quality of life of those living with dementia e. Helping to provide a stimulating and creative caring residential environment for those with advanced dementias has often been overlooked or simply not considered as part of national dementia care policies All Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing [APPG], The practise of Music for Life founded in by Linda Rose has, however, placed a particular emphasis on working with people with advanced dementias.

    The intention to create community and shared experience through the use of musical improvisation has many parallels with a co-creative approach and is framed by both mini- and little- c creativity Kaufman and Beghetto, By improvising pieces of music together the genesis of creative expression as described through mini-c creativity professional musicians, people with advanced dementias and professional care staff are engaged in musically responding to each other through what we have labelled as taking creative risks e.

    As dementias progress, many but not all e. Attending an arts group where everyday creativity little-c creativity and interaction with other members and facilitators is encouraged, may need to be gradually introduced in order to reduce anxiety and encourage participation and creative risk taking. In doing so members have the opportunity to relate to one another in ways that they might not do so usually and beyond the usual restrictions of their perceived roles.

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    By shifting the emphasis onto relationship and communication processes rather than achieving a specified outcome, an ability and desire to engage in mutual exchange is revealed. The use of a degree camera allows simultaneous interactions to be captured and later more fully understood through slowed-down 0. This has enabled greater clarity in ascertaining the extent to which people living with advanced dementias are responding to co-creative interactions, whereas observational methods are more influenced by vocal and motor responses and possible biases of observers Zeilig and West, The question of whether or how moments of shared creative experience affect us, regardless of our stage of life and cognitive ability, is addressed.

    The artefact production in this context singing is both process and product. These can enhance client-carer interactions, validating the personhood in residents with dementia Broome et al. For example, Basting et al. This engaged residents, staff and family members in a uniquely creative way to improve quality of life and showed how the arts can transform environments. Working to reach socially isolated residents within the care environment e.

    As an example, Sherman was known to shout and interrupt people, banging his fist on a table. This creative relationship enabled staff to better understand Sherman the person, rather than just his dementia. Another resident, Sally, spoke very quietly and in metaphor. This made it hard for staff to hear and understand her. Taking a brush to canvas is an artistic activity available to most people with a dementia, regardless of previous visual arts experience. All artists received the same materials and instructions and the procedural framework allowed comparisons to be made between the works.

    For example, the artist with bvFTD approached the exercise in a way that accentuated their individual artistic interests whilst the artist with PPA created a structure to communicate relationships between the objects. The artist with PCA and the artist with tAD both found some of the objects perceptually challenging but this also allowed for a greater focus on the sensual qualities of the medium. Giving people with a dementia a choice over object arrangement also allowed a cooperative interaction to occur with the researcher that facilitated further understanding of perceptual, emotional and motivational aspects of creativity.

    Since , the Single Yellow Lines project has been examining the creative potential of painting a line. A further 99 people without a dementia at public events have painted their own straight and expressive lines. The straight lines are initially being examined in laboratory and cultural venue environments as a potential measure for the spatial disruptions people with PCA experience. However, it is interesting that due to the decentralisation of perceptual experience associated with PCA, the expressive lines made by people with this diagnosis have also appeared the most expressive to many observers e.

    For people whose verbal language skills are compromised the expressive line may also offer opportunities to communicate in another form, using images, words or metaphors. We are continuing to investigate if the paintings made in these projects may be indicative of common symptomatic features of different dementias. Through public engagement events we have also observed how paintings have been powerful tools for communicating different experiences of the dementias to diverse audiences, ranging from neuroscientists to the general public.

    The projects aim to broaden the debate on the concept and manifestation of creativity in the dementias and seek to challenge the assertion that definitive interpretations about artistic creativity can be made in relation to diagnostic criteria.


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