Skip Course Information

Course Information

Instructor Info:Anthony McCaffrey
Term: 2013F
Meeting Info: Monday Wednesday
09:00 AM - 10:20 AM Adele Simmons Hall (ASH) 222
09:00 AM - 10:20 AM Adele Simmons Hall (ASH) 222

What techniques do people in your field use when trying to be creative? What techniques are used in science? In the various arts? How do you know any of these techniques are effective? Students will try out creativity techniques for individuals and groups that have come from inventors and artists as well as the fields of philosophy, cognitive psychology, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, and engineering. As students engage with these techniques, they will begin to formulate a sense of the psychological and neural dynamics involved in being stuck and creativity getting unstuck. They will also be exposed to the scientific evidence for each technique. Each student will develop their own personal toolkit of creativity techniques - their own creativity profile - that they can use and refine for the rest of their lives. This course is for people from all fields who want to improve their creativity and understand the underlying science.

Course Objectives:
  • To develop several good creativity habits
  • To try out a wide range of creativity techniques
  • To formulate a personalized toolkit of creativity techniques (a creativity profile)
  • To learn how to critique a technique based on the science and neuroscience of creativity
Evaluation Criteria:

Attendance is crucial! Since so much of the class is group activity, attendance is crucial to your success in the class. 

Attendance Details: You may miss up to three class meetings during the semester. If you miss four classes, you will not receive an evaluation for the course. These three excused absences are intended to cover everything from religious and family obligations to illness, etc. Use those absences wisely! If you are not able to pay full attention and participate during class due to any circumstance ranging from stress, distress, or a wild party the night before, you will be counted as absent and (if necessary) you will be asked to leave the classroom. 

Class participation: You need to say something in each class and participate in our many activities.

Creativity Journal at Midterm: You will turn in a fourth of what you entered in your creativity journal. Select what you want to share with me. In this way, if there is something personal that you do not want to share, then do not turn in that portion of your journal.

Creativity Journal at Final: You will turn in a fourth of what you entered in your creativity journal for the term. You should turn in a different fourth than you turned in for the midterm. Or, if you made significant progress on a particular problem you are working on, then you could select the fourth of your journal that contains this progress—even if some of it was also turned for your midterm. Select what you want to share with me. In this way, if there is something personal that you do not want to share, then do not turn in that portion of your journal. 

Minimum of One For Each of the Following Categories: You will share one of the each of the following with the class. You, of course, are encouraged to share more for each category. Contributing more will strengthen your evaluation.

◦                Clever inventions

◦                “Live” problems

◦                Creativity techniques used by famous creators

◦                Create creativity games

◦                Find insight puzzles

◦                Create new insight puzzles

Creativity Profile at Final: You will write an assessment of each creativity technique that we discuss in class. You will try out the technique (some techniques we will try out in class), write up the details of your experience of trying it out, and determine whether you would use this technique in the future.


Additional Info:

How this class works

We will interweave our class time between looking a scholarly work, trying practical creativity techniques, assessing the feasibility of their success based on known behavioral science and neuroscience, solving our own “live” problems and helping others solve theirs, sharing cool inventions and analyzing their creation, solving puzzles, creating new puzzles, practicing creativity games, and creating new creativity games. 

  • Keep a creativity journal of ideas, questions, observations, sketches, issues, etc.
  • Share “live” problems with the class and help classmates solve their “live” problems
  • Find and share cool inventions with the class
  • Write a written assessment of each creativity technique (see below for content)
  • Find and share creativity techniques used by famous creators
  • Create and share creativity games for the class to use
  • Find an insight puzzle to share with the class
  • Create a new insight puzzle to share with the class

Academic Honesty

Upon enrolling in this class, you agree to be familiar and follow Hampshire College’s Statement of Ethics of Scholarship (

Plagiarism won’t be tolerated or excused. If you have questions about your written work, please ask me.

Students with disabilities

If you have any condition that requires a special form of accommodation, please print out, and complete the Request for Accommodations form available at

Documentation and specific requests for accommodation should be sent to Joel Dansky, disabilities services coordinator, CASA, Box AC, Hampshire College, 893 West Street, Amherst, MA 01002. Fax: 413.559.6098.