Objective: To describe an organizational schema of human creativity.
Background: Previous research has concluded that creativity involves something novel and useful, but whether creativity is common or rare, domain-specific or domain-general, quantitative or qualitative, or personal or social remains unresolved.
Method: Extant research from neurobiology, psychology, cognitive science, and neuroeconomics was used to generate a novel synthesis that explains human creative behavior.
Results: Creativity is the attempt to bridge the gap between what is and what should be. It emerges from the interplay of 5 commonly shared factors: motivation, perception, action, temperament, and social interaction. The reward value of what exists compared with an imagined possibility generates the motivational voltage that drives the creative effort. Action to attain the goal requires a dexterously executed plan, and dexterity levels are influenced by both practice effects and biologic biases. Temperament sustains the creative effort during periods of nonreward in anticipation of goal completion. Societal esthetics measure the success of creative efforts. Personal skill sets derived from nature and nurture vary between individuals and determine one's own creative phenotype.
Conclusions: Despite great qualitative and quantitative differences between individuals, the neurobiologic principles of creative behavior are the same from the least to the most creative among us.