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Psychological Review

1960, Vol. 67, No. 6, 380-400

BLIND VARIATION AND SELECTIVE RETENTION
IN CREATIVE THOUGHT AS IN OTHER
KNOWLEDGE PROCESSES1
DONALD T. CAMPBELL
Northwestern University

This paper proposes to examine In bulk, this has represented cumulated
creative thought within the framework inductive achievements, stage by stage
of a comparative psychology of knowl- expansions of knowledge beyond what
edge processes, and in particular with could have been deductively derived
regard to one theme recurrent in most from what had been previously known.
knowledge processes. This theme may It has represented repeated "breakouts"
be expressed as follows: from the limits of available wisdom, for
1. A blind-variation-and-selective-retention if such expansions had represented
process is fundamental to all inductive only wise anticipations, they would
achievements, to all genuine increases in have been exploiting full or partial
knowledge, to all increases in fit of system knowledge already achieved. Instead,
to environment.
2. The many processes which shortcut a development from a highly limited back-
more full blind-variation-and-selective-reten- ground, with no "direct" dispensations of
tion process are in themselves inductive knowledge being added at any point in the
achievements, containing wisdom about the family tree. The bibliographical citation
environment achieved originally by blind of the several sources converging on this
variation and selective retention. approach to the problem of knowledge, and
3. In addition, such shortcut processes the discussion of its relation to traditional
contain in their own operation a blind- philosophical issues and to the strategy of
variation-and-selective-retention process at science are presented elsewhere (Campbell,
some level, substituting for overt locomotor 1959). Suffice it to say here that the posi-
exploration or the life-and-death winnowing tion limits one to "an epistemology of the
of organic evolution. other one." The "primitives" of knowledge
can not be sought in "raw feels" or in
Between a modern experimental "phenomenal givens," or in any "incorrigible"
physicist and some virus-type ancestor elements. While man's conscious knowl-
there has been a tremendous gain in edge processes are recognized as more com-
knowledge2 about the environment. plex and subtle than those of lower organ-
isms, they are not taken as more funda-
1
A partially overlapping version of this mental or primitive. In this perspective,
paper was presented at the Inter-Discipli- any process providing a stored program for
nary Conference on Self-Organizing Systems, organismic adaptation in external environ-
sponsored by the Office of Naval Research ments is included as a knowledge process,
and the Armour Research Foundation of the and any gain in the adequacy of such a
Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, program is regarded as a gain in knowledge.
May 5-6, 1959. The proceedings of the con- If the reader prefers, he can understand
ference are to be published by Pergamon the paper adequately regarding the term
Press under the title Self-Organising Sys- "knowledge" as metaphorical when applied
tems. The author is indebted to Carl P. to the lower levels in the developmental
Duncan for contributing to the development hierarchy. But since the problem of knowl-
of many of the points involved. edge has resisted any generally accepted
2
This extended usage of "knowledge" is solution when defined in terras of the con-
a part of an effort to put "the problem of scious contents of the philosopher himself,
knowledge" into a behavioristic framework little seems lost and possibly something
which takes full cognizance of man's status gained by thus extending the range of
as a biological product of an evolutionary processes considered.
380

BLIND VARIATION AND SELECTIVE RETENTION IN CREATIVE THOUGHT 381

real gains must have been the products connotation is that the occurrence of
of explorations going beyond the limits trials individually be uncorrelated with
of foresight or prescience, and in this the solution, in that specific correct
sense blind. In the instances of such trials are no more likely to occur at any
real gains, the successful explorations one point in a series of trials than an-
were in origin as blind as those which other, nor than specific incorrect trials.
failed. The difference between the (Insofar as observation shows this not
successful and unsuccessful was due to to be so, the system is making use of
the nature of the environment en- already achieved knowledge, perhaps
countered, representing discovered wis- of a general sort. The prepotent re-
dom about that environment. sponses of an animal in a new puzzle
The general model for such induc- box toward the apparent openings may
tive gains is that underlying both thus represent prior general knowledge,
trial-and-error problem solving and transferred from previous learning or
natural selection in evolution, the inherited as a product of the mutation
analogy between which has been and selective survival process.) A
noted by several persons (e.g., Ashby, third essential connotation of blind is
1952; Baldwin, 1900; Pringle, 1951). rejection of the notion that a variation
Three conditions are necessary: a subsequent to an incorrect trial is a
mechanism for introducing variation, a "correction" of the previous trial or
consistent selection process, and a makes use of the direction of error of
mechanism for preserving and repro- the previous one. (Insofar as mech-
ducing the selected variations. In what anisms do seem to operate in this
follows we shall look for these three fashion, there must be operating a
ingredients at a variety of levels. But substitute process carrying on the blind
first a comment on the use of the word search at another level, feedback cir-
"blind" rather than the more usual cuits selecting "partially" adequate
"random." It seems likely that Ashby variations, providing information to the
(1952) unnecessarily limited the gen- effect that "you're getting warm," etc.)
erality of his mechanism in Homeostat
by an effort to fully represent all of REVIEW OF THE THEME IN LOWER
the modern connotations of random. KNOWLEDGE PROCESSES
Equiprobability is not needed, and is In this perspective, the epistemo-
definitely lacking in the mutations logically most fundamental knowledge
which lay the variation base for organic processes are embodied in those several
evolution. Statistical independence be- inventions making possible organic
tween one variation and the next, while evolution. At the already advanced
frequently desirable, can also be spared: level of cellular life, this is a "learning"
in particular, for the generalizations on the part of the species by the blind
essayed here, certain processes involv- variation and selective survival of
ing systematic sweep scanning are mutant individuals. In terms of the
recognized as blind, insofar as varia- three requirements, variation is pro-
tions are produced without prior knowl- vided by the mutations, selection by
edge of which ones, if any, will furnish the somewhat consistent or "knowable"
a selectworthy encounter. An essential vagaries of the environment, and pres-
connotation of blind is that the varia- ervation and duplication by the com-
tions emitted be independent of the en- plex and rigid order of chromosome
vironmental conditions of the occasion mitosis. Bisexuality, heterozygosity,
of their occurrence. A second important and meiotic cell division represent a

protozoa by Jennings (1906) and ac. but also as pleasures or pains. and-error perceptions. The selection be- environmental contingencies already comes much more sharp. While higher vertebrate (and again possible. edge that there is some event-contin- ing the range of variation and the rate gency stability in the environment. and-error process in individual learn- ploratory locomotion. of sensation through a series of "trial- out distance receptors (such as para. consisting levels will be avoided by treating trial- of penetrable regions and impenetrable and-error learning as a single process ones. 1956b). whereas the ultimate selection The higher evolutionary develop. part of relevant segments of the envi- oration of the theme. and that impenetrability is to level. Woodworth than to wait until one can move (1921) has emphasized the achieve- through. a trial and error of potential locomo- . until unblocked forward locomotion is 19S6a). The ubiquity been the species-level discovery of of bisexuality. That is. there has esses remain the same. Such processes are environmental contingencies with low numerous. described in the ing needs no elaboration or defense. or as reinforcers representing general wisdom about more generally. Suffice it to say that recognition of cepted as a model for Homeostat by such a process is found in all learning Ashby (1952). ment of detailed local knowledge. vidual learning is useful. the theory (Campbell. ready achieved the more general knowl- ficiency of the process through increas. tact with the environmental realities making possible more efficient achieve. by the evolu- adaptation away from a trial and error tionary stage at which learning is pos- of whole organisms or gene pools. Crude single organism. each being not only a device selection ratios are now represented for obtaining knowledge. at which point completeness. 382 DONALD T. of readjustment to novel environments. the more use of the short circuiting of preservation of discovery is embodied overt trial and error by vision than is in the perseveration of the unblocked allowed for by the usual learning forward movement. less direct. is life or death in encounters with the ments shift a part of the locus of external environment. its several independent slower transformation processes on the inventions. and the multifarious elab. sible. in the degree to which indi- The selection and preservation proc. for con- species has "discovered" that the en. all speak to its ronment than of the organism. ment of a percept from the ingredients Insofar as individual organisms with. One The presence of a fundamental trial- of the most primitive of these is ex. dition. but the con- achieved through organic evolution. much of this once-external crite- over to processes occurring within the rion has been internalized. In ad- tremendous usefulness. Forward locomotion theories which make any pretense of persists until blocked. including at least three direction of locomotion is varied blindly of Gestalt inspiration (Campbell. the species has al. venience here the multiplication of vironment is discontinuous. The external physical higher cephalopod) learning makes far environment is the selection agency. At this level. CAMPBELL secondary invention increasing the ef. some extent a stable characteristic—it The next and most striking class of has discovered that when blocked it discoveries are those centering around is a better strategy to try to go around echo-location and vision." Thurstone mecia and earthworms) can learn (1924) has interpreted perception as through contiguity.

But the the same environment of potential process is still one of blind search and locomotions by full ship or projectile selective retention. and the brief pres- similar order (Campbell. Vision is a very complex and mar- able as a substitute search process of velous mechanism. ployed in this paper.) In echo sibilities of locomotion in a given direc- location a wave pulse is emitted blindly tion. in a book containing ing.) With such a device. conditioning theory. The obstacles of the ploring the possibilities of locomotion environment selectively reflect the in a wide segment of potential direc- pulse from certain of these directions. Hebb (1949) has well docu- the organism. unmediated knowing. tions for locomotion. correcting the model of the made available from external sources. Each receptor cell can be tion. Radar science or insight. Pumphrey (1950) interprets vocal pitch control in which a steady the primitive sense receptor of the note is "held" only by a continuous fishes called the "lateral-line organ" as search oscillation (Deutsch & Clarkson. (See Simon. p. in the sense em- movements. For the "blindness" guidance systems employ an analogous of an eyeless animal there has been substitution of a blindly scanning elec. Except as the and thus provide a feedback which is eye is aimed by other sources of knowl- substitutable for that which would edge. To conceive of such an "eye" use of the reflected pulses of the fish's as a blind searching device substituting own swimming. BLIND VARIATION AND SELECTIVE RETENTION IN CREATIVE THOUGHT 383 tions placed in a hierarchy of trial. Riggs (Riggs. for conceived of as exploring the pos- an estimate of such gains. making 1959). advantage is mented the active search of eye move- taken of diffuse electromagnetic waves ments. The entation here does not do justice even full analogy is weakened by the absence to the random search components in- of an emitting process on the part of volved. or as in the cepts. Griffin (1958) has for a more costly blind locomotion in documented in detail the use by bats the explored directions is not difficult. the retina collectively thus ex- in all directions. 1957. & Ratliff. blind scanning as in a radar system is and-error processes including both essential. in economical we use it naively as a model for substitution for a blind scanning of direct. and cave birds of sonic and supersonic The eyes of insects and vertebrates and vocalizations selectively reflected by the higher cephalopods differ from obstacles of the environment. these possibilities have been have been received had the animal made "blindly" available without pre- locomoted in those directions. Brightness contours can be overt trial and error and ideational located and fixated by continual cross- trial and error. a crude echo-location device. 1956b). at once. Ditchburn (1955) have documented cell output is transformed into a sound the essential role of the continuous low of variable pitch. Instead. substituted a process so efficient that tromagnetic wave pulse. (Such a device has been distributed Armington. 1954) and for use by the blind in which a photo. making possible selective reflec- the porpoise. inactive fixed-focus eye which is im- Consider first a pseudoeye consisting plicit in both Gestalt psychology and of but a single photoreceptor cell. as in the "hunting" process in a many anticipations of cybernetic con. amplitude scanning provided by "phys- . mechanical servosystem. Here is a powerful tion from objects in multiple directions substitute for blind locomotor explora. Visual perception seems interpret. 264. Kellogg such a device by having multiple photo- (1958) has made a similar case for cells.

(Species model. and least palatable as a . it is as thought achieves innovation. which it is one purpose of this paper variation-and-selective-retention aspect to deny. a belief challenge to the generality a blind. unpredictable upon adaptive. lacking prescience or stitute knowledge processes. CREATIVE THOUGHT ments have not fully justified this con. Such coding is never ex. internal emitting of thought trials one substitute process. to all knowledge processes. levels. and leads to that chronic belief tions convince the present writer that in the potential existence of direct and although vision represents the strongest "insightful" mental processes. The process as a whole of fectiveness is limited by the accuracy course provides "foresight" for the of the coding process. or reflect. for the achievement of visual differ in this regard. Thus while phe.e. that objects impenetrable multifarious exploratory thought trials by organismic locomotion also are according to a criterion which is in opaque to. once the proc- tion terms between one level and ess has blindly stumbled into a thought another. As in all sub. substitute exploration of a substitute eral general aspects can be noted: all representation of the environment. the seen in this perspective as an indirect. CAMPBELL iological nystagmus" or "fixation itself initially tested out by a blind- tremor. It must finally mination of the process. we find the blind-variation- locomotion. it must be emphasized that insofar than other knowledge processes. and along with this clicked. rion. however.384 DONALD T. the exploit a specific and limited coin. Creative thought provides the next clusion. It is when put into overt locomotion are this coincidence.. the ef. i. sev.. level knowledge process for the present Taking these echo location and visual discussion. the transla. it is not in fact an exception. able to the more primitive organisms. his "lens-grinding" early childhood learning. Its efficacy is limited by and-selective-retention model most plau- the relevance of the coding to the more sibly applied at the levels of organic fundamental level of behavior for which evolution and trial-and-error learning it is a substitute.e." or "aha-erlebnis" some fringe imperfection and proneness that usually marks the successful ter- to systematic error. "solution" being selected from the cidence." "Eureka. i. accompanied by the "something volves abstraction. by one is blind. At this level there is a exploratory processes collectively. which lacks overt blind floundering. certain wave itself substituting for an external state forms in the acoustical frequencies and of affairs." Platt (1958) has provided a variation-and-selective-retention proc- brilliant analysis of the role of a blind ess at the level of organic evolution or "rubbing" process. These and other considera. and is thus a knowledge process. It always in. foresight. Insofar as the three sub- in the bands of electromagnetic waves stitutions are accurate. trial that "fits" the selection crite- haustive (Platt. To which makes possible such marvelously include this process in the general plan efficient shortcuts. of blind-variation-and-selective-reten- nomenologically vision is more direct tion. This relevance was of animals. These brief com.) The phenomenal acuity and spatial representation in a directness of vision tempts us to make visual system containing unaddressed vision prototypic for knowing at all elements. overt level of behavior. leading to intelligent behavior the basis of the prior knowledge avail. the solutions of the visual and radar spectra. be checked out and corrected by overt Today. 1956).

but we unfitness of each new tentative. the operator do not know what series of ideas will lead proceeds to ply the third requisite of con. or mechanical. He asserts again is not able to revise itself upon its own . two years before Darwin's of rival hypotheses about the inventive publication of the doctrine of natural process. . (p. whether science. Nothing less than existing discoveries. psychology of creativity. or a profuseness of energy. nourished it. BLIND VARIATION AND SELECTIVE RETENTION IN CREATIVE THOUGHT 385 description of creative thinking. perhaps it will arrive very belatedly: it In the process of Deduction . If their places in a fitting combination (p. . Left to itself method soon be- paths of inquiry (p. us there. perceives that tion for the subject one grows weary of the it is a false route. Not only for historical in. We know the condi- struction and a clear sense of the fitness or tions to be met by the sought idea. until we learn that the which come to it from elsewhere. 1874) are proach : provided: A problem is posed for which we must Possessing thus the material of the con. drawing author . His. but not how attain the desired result. in the art of find- fine art. The number it should begin. But they must recognize that without such audacity. Our mind takes up the first path without something of an affection or fascina. .. The discovery of a a fanaticism of experimentation could have new problem can therefore only be fortui- given birth to some of our grandest practical tous. for example. and fall into question well posed is half answered. in trials of all kinds on the chance of since method is the application of already making lucky hits . invent a solution. by Alexander Bain as early lustration and through the elimination as 1855. it does no good to speak of method. but also to further develop the tion of the process is hard to find. Thus we see the role of logic diminish combinations. selection. . induction. the phrase "trial tion est le hasard.. But here turn. The truly original mind is deserves notice. 593). . 594). The mind of true innovation. The discovery is fertile. could not have closer to true invention. . then true invention consists in the With reference to originality in all de. there is a point of character that ing solutions. incubates in patient that we had to solve a problem already thought over the problem. and made it to stumble upon it. stated for us. forehand with the principles most likely In the case just analysed we supposed for the purpose ." A positive explana- terest. The mind being prepared be. and again that "le principe de 1'inven- torically. to series of our thoughts must end. . . . same constructive process has often to be In these conditions we are reduced to introduced. and error" was first used to describe he presents his argument through il- thinking. . . Perhaps it will originality of mind in any department arrive immediately at the sought idea. Methodological minds can- not help having a feeling of disdain for In 1881 Paul Souriau presented a adventurous minds which affirm before prov- still more preponderant emphasis on ing and believe before knowing. comes sterile. The great discovery of and that of chance increase as we approach Daguerre. until at last the proper elements statement itself found? It is said that a come together in the view. including deduction. put forth again. and "la methode. . so to speak. . . practice. This is the emotional condition of takes another direction. so. trying and re. posing of questions. Method can only analyse the ideas unaccountable. we know how the structiveness—trial and error— . . In this case it is evident of trials necessary to arrive at a new that there is no way to begin except at construction is commonly so great that random. But how was the problem- jecting. retraces its steps and task. There is something partments. however. 595). I mean an Active that which discovers problems. dependence upon chance. that it finds open before it. Chance is the been regularly worked out by any systematic first principle of invention: it is what has and orderly research. the factor of chance as the sole source no progress would be possible. . In other words. there was no way but produced method." In the main. the following This sample will illustrate his ap- quotations from him (Bain. got deeply involved in trials out their consequences and exhausting their and operations far removed from the beaten contents. the is entirely impossible to know in advance. .

His self to have succeeded without effort. and if he thinks him. and absurd ideas cross our mind. system does the truism that the unstable These two widely separated quotations tends to destroy itself imply that there is illustrate this: a fundamental tendency for the stable to replace the unstable (p. and topics not covered here. to the present day positivistic recogni- fers itself to us. al. constructions of the world and who Those persons who. so in the nervous fitting a goal or criterion are selected. . If his memory is strong enough to 3 Souriau's presentation is in general quite retain all of the amassed details. with which he has paid for his success (p. deduction and induction are reminiscent of tion.386 DONALD T. at the age of 57 in 1895. By a kind of artificial selection. He comments wisely on many gregates which destroy themselves. theme for his inaugural address. cannot imagine that the human sumptions involved in the physicist's mind could achieve this by a simple fum. and how much time even was called back to his alma mater the the smallest discovery costs them. thus shaken up and agitated in necessarily so for the problems of which his mind. 17-18). (nor does he cite the ideas of Peirce's later critiques. the congruence reminiscent of Darwin's writings. and indeed. upon considering the marvelous results at which knowledge has first made explicit the empirical pre- arrived. he chose a quite different astray many times. all The occasion indicates the importance of the false leads." has made him forget all the fatigues. CAMPBELL foundations. he gave to the message. Even University of Vienna to assume a genius has need of patience. although not his ideas. Of century thinker about thinking who all of the ideas which present themselves emphasized this model. what hosts of frivilous. he treats. he of scholars working at the same time on the same problem. . form numerous unstable ag. we note only those which have some value and can be utilized in remember him most as a psychologist- reasoning. . the dissonance created by dis- The phrase "artificial selection" is crepant opinions of others. the truism that the numbers which are generally worthless dead cannot breed implies that there is a and from which only the rare ones fundamental tendency for the successful to replace the unsuccessful. Ashby's (1952) phrasing of the inev- Souriau has not only the notion of itable self-elimination of unstable com- chance combinations. do not bear in mind the great number when. New ideas cannot have proto. It is after newly created position of Professor of hours and years of meditation that the the History and Theory of Inductive sought-after idea presents itself to the in- ventor. of free will and determinism. tion of the hypothetic character of our bizarre. 43). But bling. we can in addition substantially perfect our thought Ernst Mach was another great 19th and make it more and more logical. although associationistic them in turn with such rapidity that they in a way some would find dated.3 Note types : their appearance can only be at. he groups vigorously deterministic in a way now under- them by chance in all the possible ways. and both the though Souriau makes no mention of conflict and interdependency between erudi- tion and innovation. He does not succeed without going Science. vi). mined by subatomic physics. but also the con. 114-115). the social conditions of creativity and invention. it is title was "on the part played by ac- only because the joy of having succeeded cident in invention and discovery. His attacks on both the selective-survival model of evolu. in the species. For every single idea of a physicist-philosopher who contributed judicious and reasonable nature which of. including simulta- finish up by stopping on the most simple neous independent invention and the Zeit- and solid combination (pp. . he evokes modern in spirit. geist. assumption of an Euclidian space. binations : cept of their being produced in large Just as. We today to our mind. how similar the final quotation is to tributed to chance (pp. all of the agonies. and seem to appear simultaneously. any other person whatsoever).

and that as a rule that reason they are also without effect upon the esthetic sensibility. . . I most beautiful. Mozart. And this is still very mysterious. but only the interesting ones the ruling idea. when they say that which confers this privilege? Evidently thoughts. thought being presented: and because of all of the sources cited he would most generally be respected The disclosure of new provinces of facts as truly creative (in the field of math- before unknown. so to are so ignorant as often to be tempted to speak. consequently. . the result of a gradual selection. and harmonies had not. swelling host of fancies which a In this . charm this special sensibility that all mathe- Ideas rose in crowds. Thus are to be explained are called to pass the threshold. and has combinations would be useful. but of which the profane collide until pairs interlocked. can only be brought about by accidental circumstances . and. I felt them maticians know. poured in upon them. (p. 1913. making their others which were lacking in interest and future appearance impossible. in opposition to the accidentalist posi- These quotations (Mach. 171). which. some act of creation. . ematics) these longish excerpts (Poin- In such [other] cases it is a psychical care. 174). among the thousand as if it were the outcome of a deliberate products of our unconscious activity. 168). tion while he is read here as favoring ther reinforce the model of creative the selective-retention version of it. instead of experimentally of sudden illumination. only the most intense fix our simply retained the right ones (p. appears What is the cause that. Does it of advantageous accidents. are those essay on mathematical invention pre. after an unconscious (P. Consciousness only the successful selected alternatives will never know them. are generally After the repeated survey of a field has useful and fertile combinations. mood. and others. What happens then? Among the great (Poincare. Because of the harmonious. 387). be. interest and without utility. combinations would be formed in con- suddenly that particular form arises to sequence of the automatism of the sub- the light which harmonizes perfectly with liminal self. working somewhat prolonged. . way of looking at it. then from the have remained unconscious? teeming. or design. ful and beautiful. Richard others remain below? Is it a simple chance Wagner. directly or indirectly. More generally the priv- Poincare (1908. They will be capable of . and that they had for example. . Then it would break into the domain of conscious- is that that which has resulted slowly as ness. all the free and high-flown imagination calls forth. but just for scious awareness. while the statements of Newton. we reach the following conclusion: The useful combinations are precisely the evening. Poincare numbers of combinations blindly formed by feels that it is rare for this blind the subliminal self. 1896) fur. which seem afforded opportunity for the interposition the result of a first impression. those sus- ceptible of becoming conscious. contrary to my custom. I mean those best able to drank black coffee and could not sleep. affect sents a point of view which is also most profoundly our emotional sensibility judged to be in agreement. among all the stimuli of our senses. BLIND VARIATION AND SELECTIVE RETENTION IN CREATIVE THOUGHT 387 his paper is a neglected classic in the cause Hadamard (1945) has cited him psychology of knowledge processes. 1913) in his famous ileged unconscious phenomena. has formed gradually relegated to the background all only these. or has it rather formed many things that are inappropriate. attention. 391). making a stable combination" smile at it. He first (p. at once use- relevance of Poincare's comments. unless it has been drawn to them by other causes. gives an example in imagery: "One . only certain ones are enter consciousness. almost all are without permuting process to rise into con. p. has rendered all follow that the subliminal self. melodies. having the traits that suit with the word or the divined by a delicate intuition that these dominant thought more vivid. 1913) are read into the record: accident to which the person owes his dis- covery—a discovery which is here made It is certain that the combinations which "deductively" by means of mental copies present themselves to the mind in a sort of the world.

The mobilized atoms are therefore not which plays the role of the delicate sieve any atoms whatsoever. as would. Perhaps we ought to seek the explanation where we have only to apply fixed rules. of a somewhat long calculation all made. certain tions themselves. they must be made in the of them are detached from the wall and put second period of conscious work. unconscious work. if you these calculations are strict and complicated. but I scarcely we are not too reluctant in supposing that know how otherwise to make my thought it has been able in a short time to make understood. in that preliminary period of conscious work We might think the wholly automatic sub- which always precedes all fruitful uncon. Figure the future elements of our ical. them at random. ways in seeking to assemble them. and duce new combinations. it usually hap. wall. we almost always notice that this primitive rest. but it found no satisfactory aggregate. It never happens that the good. The rules of for example. We think is an observation which may confirm it: we have done no good. deduces their consequences. had it been true. once aroused. that which in motion. and that sufficiently which we might reasonably expect the de- explains why the one lacking it will never sired solution. the one we should choose. Is it likely where at least one of the elements is one of that it is able to form all the possible com. they are. as I have said. Again I beg pardon. that have a chance of forming are those Yet these limitations exist. more different combinations than the whole However it may be. my know not its limitations. Then their mutual impacts may pro- geometer of which I have just spoken. so to speak. will. our awakening. to unhook them from This is only a hypothesis. attention. the sort. gratified our natural feeling for mathe. will call our attention What is the role of the preliminary con- to them. and if it makes in the original hypothesis. and have pens that it does not deceive him. and thus give them occasion to scious work? It is evidently to mobilize become conscious. and yet here the wall and put them in swing. like the They require discipline. But. work. The conscious self is narrowly other atoms at rest which they struck against limited. it pursued a perfectly determined Thus it is this special esthetic sensibility aim. for example a verification. these atoms are motion. undergo impacts which make them enter into Yet all the difficulties have not disap. is a point of departure On the other hand. as observation proves. Perhaps necessary. All one and consequently without any combination may hope from these inspirations.388 DONALD T. prefer a more learned comparison. certain of these atoms. there would be small chance Another observation. our will did not choose them at matical elegance. during a period of for such calculations. they are those from of which I spoke. so this complete rest may be indefi. whose number would frighten the it is evidently among these that is found imagination? Nevertheless that would seem what I call the good combination. During the complete hope to find the product ready made upon repose of the mind. Now. would have dance. the only combinations life of a conscious being could encompass. CAMPBELL touching this special sensibility of the gases. because we have when a sudden illumination seizes upon the moved these elements a thousand different mind of the mathematician. liminal self particularly apt for this sort of scious labor. which. Nothing of nitely prolonged without the atoms meeting. It seems that thinking in the evening combinations as something like the hooked upon the factors of a multiplication we might atoms of Epicurus. which is in a way exclusively mechan- son. As for the calcula- apparent rest and unconscious work. or again that an algebraic less. those atoms freely chosen by our will. Permit me a rough compari. Then the mobilized atoms be a real creator. this shaking up imposed upon them by our that it does not stand the test of verification. They flash in every direction follows the inspiration. would be made unconsciously. Now. and as for the subliminal self we in their course. after also sometimes happens. will. and this is why comparison is very rough. because if it produces only a small this is a way of lessening the paradoxical part of these combinations. binations. that the unconscious work gives us the result would be found among them. a swarm of gnats or. these atoms do not return to their well. In the subliminal . hooked to the calculation. random. combinations among themselves or with peared. fruits of between them. that in which one through the space (I was about say the verifies the results of this inspiration and room) where they are enclosed. and molecules of gas in the kinematic theory of therefore consciousness. They freely continue their false idea.

Humphrey (1951). Instead. or molar responses associationism nor Gestalt psychology is envisaged. Sluckin (1954). obviating overt selective criteria in a resonance process. To make this interpretation. Furthermore. ing was of course one part of the syn. on the contrary. as In rough chronology these include Humphrey (1951) and Woodworth Baldwin (1906). provide ample evidence of both for- Thurstone (1924). if we might give this name to the model for thought. protest that even the errorful trials are Boring (1950). recog. it is a mnemonic environment an important trial and error of overt manipulation aspect of their description of thinking. which is involved. tuitous solutions and misleading Hull (1930). and trials make use of what was learned many others. Poincare's (1913) esthetic The Gestaltists are judged to have criteria and the Gestalt qualities of validly rejected Thorndike's (1898) de. and the like can be regarded as solely a matter of overt locomotor trial built-in selective criteria completely and error. reigns what I should trial and error. trial and error of thought or vision. Muenzinger (1938). Tolman (1926). has proposed a nizing vision as a substitute trial-and. this dis. Craik (1943). and that be- The Gestalt Protest fore acting he employed the substitute The trial-and-error theme in learn. . wholeness. Pillsbury (1910). checked. "intelligent" and that the subsequent Mowrer (1954). hypotheses. The model at the level as discrete integrated wholes. an active tion. BLIND VARIATION AND SELECTIVE RETENTION IN CREATIVE THOUGHT 389 self. and Schlosberg (1954) point out." The recurrent Gestaltist ler and Dollard (1941). Even more so does call liberty. the Rignano (1923). selective-retention model of central error process leads to the expectation nervous system action in which sys- that some locomotor problems will be tematic temporal patterns provide the solved by this means. (1951) for example. of thought places essential importance stead to regard each as congeries of upon internalized selective criteria which the parts may be separately ac. To the present the simple absence of discipline and to the disorder born of chance. 392-394). writer the Gestaltists were correct de- order itself permits unexpected combinations scriptively even though epistemologi- (pp. it is generation and checking of thought- necessary to regard neither traditional trials. The blind-variation-and-selective-re- drome of ideas against which Gestalt tention model of thought joins the psychology eloquently protested. "insights. passive induction machine accumulat- tives of this paper and the Gestalt posi. symmetry. against which the thought trials are cepted or rejected. As this writer (Campbell. Woodworth (1921). but in. Only. Mil. through the error are taken here as equivalent to the statements that the OBJECTIONS TO THE MODEL problem solver had some valid general knowledge to begin with. cally the trial-and-error process re- In addition to these pioneers there mains fundamental to discovery. trasts between insightful problem solv- stitute trial and error in a modeled or ing and blind trial and error. Gestalt descriptions of problem solving Woodworth & Schlosberg (1954). ing contingencies. organized struc- scription of animal problem solving as ture. In of course have been numerous others Wertheimer's (1959) specific con- who in some manner have made a sub. Pringle 1956b) has argued previously. compatible with the model. In Gestaltists in protest against the pic- spite of this. there is judged to be no ture of the learning organisms as a inherent conflict between the perspec.

we should not expect mar- publicized as a part of an ideology of velous consequents to have had equally creativity. a feeling which inhibits survival model it will be futile.selective.. teeming. to look for special ante- 1954) has described such an inhibiting cedent conditions not obtaining for . in through giving students a feeling that comparing the problem-solving efforts they lack an important gift possessed of any one person. and called the "mystique of the creative Gestalt theory emphasize the advantage genius and the creative act. it can reduce creativity marvelous antecedents. and interlock. or among rational abstrac. from the selective by some others. we would ordinarily be This is not to say that a Gestalt tempted to look for a subtle and special psychologist would be happy with the talent on the part of this lucky man. While "insight" is ac. cepted as a phenomenal counterpart of rather than directed toward the ante- the successful completion of a perhaps cedents of the discovery. about the greater genius of the one agery of multitudinous. Furthermore. for the genuinely unantici- description of thought processes. Wertheimer.variation . instance of a genuinely innovative ence upon authority. when discovery. a tendency to see marvelous 1940. achievements rooted in equally mar- 1959). Luchins. man—he just happened to be standing tated. and let the guess of one man prove sight. Heider. Polya (1945. in the creative effort and increases depend." and at the pose differing guesses about the un- overt performance level by a sudden known in an area of total ignorance. the encounter. 1950. ing ideas.g. and the related to our deeply rooted tendency disadvantages of set and rote drill toward causal perception (e. especially in the im." Let a by a joyful "ahaerlebnis" or a Gestalt dozen equally brilliant men each pro- experience of "closure. achievement. Dunker. or re. 1945. where lightning struck. thetical in spirit to the blind-variation- centerings. Note the highly similar testimony vide us with new knowledge about the from the disparate historical citations environment but would tell us nothing provided above. 1944). Nor is the trial-and-error selective-survival model this matching model without phenomenological sup. Furthermore. however. Both the blind variation and-selective-retention model may be and selective survival model. Nor patable creative act. Another prevalent orientation anti- tions. velous antecedents. blind ." This is of breaking out of old ruts. In such a case. agi." There is no essential disagree. of guess and environment would pro- port. here accepted. It takes the form ing in thought of an idea which fits can of the "fallacy of accident" and of be accompanied at the phenomenal level "post hoc ergo propter hoc.390 DONALD T. so in many cases of ways of knowing. Katona. colliding. especially as it connotes "direct" successful one. successful mutant allele over an un- jected. Just as we unconscious blind-variation cycle.and . correct. our "awe" and are all aspects of the Gestalt syndrome "wonder" should be directed outward. Similarly. and stable improvement signifying "in. or field reorganizations. at the external world thus revealed. employed. From the blind-variation-and- ment here. 1942.retention However. loosened. CAMPBELL Nor does the model here presented tradition in the teaching of mathe- specify the nature of the thought trials matics. There must often be a trial and error among possible general Individual Differences and Genius principles. its do not impute special "foresight" to a status as an explanatory concept is re. (Boring.

) And more generally. Thorstein Veblen (1919) to accident" (p. detail of their representations of the 1956. and have recommended ways of tion model of creative thought predicts reducing trial-to-trial stereotypy. Devices emphasize. and that the causal. according as has Robert Park (1928) in writing to the trial-and-error model? First. Souriau. however. that explanations abound which are designed to increase in terms of special antecedents will very the likelihood that all permutations be often be irrelevant. it is the external world. there is not the precise application of Bain has emphasized the role of fanati. and through more for life than for science in the this means. the overwhelming bulk of inadequate . in the frequency of creative extent to which even they are indebted innovation. Many observers have This is not to deny individual differ. of possible locomotions principle of variation which leads us in it or manipulations of its elements. not in talent the elements whose blind permutation differences in the generation of the and combination make possible a wide trials. tions. 175). deifying the creative genius to the rapidity and uninhibited range of whom we impute a capacity for direct thought-trial production. a selective criterion which weeds out cism or extreme dedication in pro. as in going through the alphabet us prone to such over-interpretations. as by such talent differences along all of the abandoning the problem for awhile. (See also Seeman. emphasized the role of set and famili- ences in creative intellect. Mach. We can also see in this prin- tion correspond to differences in de. of the role of "the marginal man" in they may differ in the accuracy and cultural innovation. seem to have the genius: "To our humiliation we learn advantage in the range of hypotheses that even the greatest men are born they are apt to consider. the greater the chance of success. in finding rhymes or puzzle words. Bain. might be expected to differ. Indeed. has espoused such a theory in his essay What are the ways in which thinkers on the intellectual preeminence of Jews. to post-hoc-ergo-proper-hoc interpreta. thinkers can differ in the ranging exploration with great toler- number and range of variations in ance for blind alley entrances. havior. Ernst Mach (1896) notes who have been thoroughly exposed to our nostalgia for the directly-knowing two or more cultures. There are no doubt age differences in tions. or processes. BLIND VARIATION AND SELECTIVE RETENTION IN CREATIVE THOUGHT 391 blind-alley efforts: just insofar as there ducing large volumes of such explora- has been a genuine gain in knowledge. This is to going on to other things. personal eccentricity and bizarre be- ences in this accuracy of representa. The sociology insight instead of mental flounderings of knowledge makes an important con- and blind-alley entrances of the kind tribution here: persons who have been we are aware typify our own thought uprooted from traditional cultures. whose social atmospheres allow wide Second. considered and are used by most of interpretative biases of our minds make us. range of trials. thought trials produced. parameters of the process. tions. to expect among innovators those of and of the selective criteria. ciple the value of those laboratories gree of information and intelligence. arity in reducing the range of varia- the blind-variation-and-selective-reten. and the difference between a hit and a Poincare have all emphasized the role miss lies in the selective conditions of advance preparation in assembling thus newly encountered. Differ. The more The value of wide ranging variation numerous and the more varied such in thought trials is of course vitiated if trials.

as Kurt Lasswitz's story that a very pure measure of innovative "The Universal Library" (1958) dra- range in thought and a very pure matically illustrates. impossibly long time were a search of In organic evolution. Other parodies measure of rote memory might be even of our model occur in literature as negatively correlated.and . This editing talent undoubtedly the reach of the less gifted. traces such ideas back to Lully. as Saugstad far back as Swift's portrait of the (1952) seems to have found. and Academy of Lagado in Gulliver's similarly for innovative range and Travels (1941. Just so we might expect whelming. or through a random sampling of being at the expense of the other. Further blind . The Enormous Domain of Possible 1949) advance on a problem tangential Thought-Trials to be Searched to his initial main line of endeavor A final type of objection to the (e. even opportunistic in the sense of having a though on an average contribution per wide number of selective criteria avail. ers. Needless to say.. they will contribute much able at all times.392 DONALD T.g. made. tions suggest complementary combina.) Newell. 1200. at random producing by chance in Notice regarding the individual the course of a million years all of differences thus described that while the books in the British Museum.e.. the principles make it likely that sized. Barber & Fox." i. capita basis. they do not place retention model through a reductio ad the joys of creative innovation beyond absurdum. with an increase in either able. ca. Much of creative thought is undiligent. and uneducated. cumu. (Ley. With regard to selection cri. CAMPBELL trials.retention areas of individual differences lie in model of thought needs to be con- the competence of the retention. they do make creative innovation much Such parodies seem effectively to re- more likely on the part of some in.variation . and therefore course places limitations in this regard. and transmisison of the encoun. pp. thought trials is so large that the solu- It need not be expected that these tion of a given problem would take an dimensions of talent all go together. and Simon tions of talent in creative teams. (1958a. ject the blind-variation-and-selective- dividuals than others. increase his likelihood of achieving a serendipitous (Cannon. Shaw. such a . 1913) has empha. through a systematic scanning of all tion of gains through genetic rigidity possibilities where these are enumer- are at odds. and the universe of possibilities. sidered. al. one further point should be come from the relatively untalented. differs widely from person to person. The more noted. fect that the domain of possible tered solutions. Indeed. many important contributions will teria. Merton. This objection is to the ef- lation. the variation all possibilities to be involved. Time and with some degree of compromise being trial estimates thus based can be over- optimum. looking at large populations of think- as Poincare (1908. 1958b) refer in this vein to though the uninhibited idea-man and what they call the "British Museum the compulsive edit-and-record type Algorithm.selective. 1958). 166-169). points which Souriau (1881) has thought trials are judged. the possibility of a are notoriously incompatible office group of trained chimpanzees typing mates. selective precision. The intricacy of the tradition creative thinker may be able to keep in to which innovation is being added of mind more such criteria. either process of mutation and the preserva. Such considera. 1958. against which the less. 1945.

As a matter of fact. Thus when variations of the previous generation Newell. but can obviously be relaxed nor all possible excellent solutions in thought processes and in machine achieved. thought trials are cally-programed problem-solving com. BLIND VARIATION AND SELECTIVE RETENTION IN CREATIVE THOUGHT 393 rejection is not accepted in the present the screening of each prior stage. the theory of natural then exploring further blind variations selection in evolution. 19S8a. slowness. 1958b) have the similar ing them. A. in general. Neither in organic evolution nor strategy is unavoidable for organic in thought are all problems solved. The knowledge we do dora's box of permutations opened up encounter is achieved against terrific by such relaxation can be used to infer odds. productive thought trials on the part 4. This overlooks uttered. of organic evolution and of much of portion of what is published is used by creative thinking. and what a small pro. 91) makes the improbable in- able. The tremendous number of non. serendipitous course gets published.. the Pan- omniscience. In biological evolution and in "interesting. tunistic multipurposedness gives one plored is greatly reduced by having a poor base for estimating the proba- selective criteria imposed at every step. as R. and of conscious solving was undertaken with that one thought what a small proportion gets fixed goal in mind. and objections to. It paper. (Those advocating heuristi. In constructing our extended to all models of creative "universal library" we stop work on thought." To neglect this oppor- thought. This 1. head and Russell were otherwise free and then of exploring further varia. Some of the "heuristics" chapter of Principia Mathematica. dentalist interpretation more accept. Fisher has pointed out (e. 1958b) sets out to wonderful combinations may be missed prove the 60-odd theorems in a given therefore. has for judging a given outcome 3. it currently employed in logic and chess may face a more formidable task than playing machines (Newell. evolution. it is judged is this strategy of cumulating selected to be in the same class as parallel outcomes from a blind variation. selected or rejected within one or two puters are careful not to guarantee removes of the established base from solutions. Similar features only for this highly select stem. When we make estimates of the of the total intellectual community number of permutations which would must not be underestimated. that. bility of encountering the one outcome Thus mutant variations on nonadaptive hit upon and recorded.) any volume as soon as it is clear that 2.g. and this modesty should be which they start. the number of variations ex. Think of have to be culled to obtain a given what a small proportion of thought outcome. Shaw. it is gibberish. if. we often assume that problem becomes conscious. White- moves in terms of immediate criteria. Shaw. There is no guarantee of problem solving. 1954. in these two instances make the acci. except for the dozen effect of evaluating all next-possible classic theorems reproduced. & did Whitehead and Russell in generat- Simon. The likelihood of the next intellectual generation. p. evitable in organic evolution. However. and Simon's "Logic are never tested—even though many Theorist" (1958a. There a productive thought increases with is a tremendous wastefulness. to record every deduction they en- tions upon only those stems passing countered which seemed "interesting" . what a still smaller fragment the opportunistic. that. the wider variety of reasons one and rarity of achievement.

a very tives and in which the start and goal turn handsome gain for any heuristic. in commenting on the here. while pect of success they might suddenly come conceding that machines could choose across a clue to the solution of problem C (p. and of alternatives). If dramatic advantage in the number of permu.* There is. By adding heuristics mechanical relationship between pure and applied thought processes have indeed been scientists in wartime: made more like those of human beings. 34). the savings of the mixed approach sons. third stage away from each end. the paths into any position are not singular. either of the pure is larger as the number of branches at each strategies would generate 4 + 42 + 43 + stage increases. Shaw. In the mixed strategy. amount to approximately 1 to 6. and a smaller but still costly as the generating and storing of alter- substantial gain in the number of compari. work.394 DONALD T." Newell. tions on the other stem.844 permutations of working backwards in what is essentially (neglecting the probable achievement of this mixed form is present in Polya (1945). and vision and of coding environ- and for the logic problems used by Newell.225 comparisons. there as numerous as paths leading out. tion. A pure would be 21. and protests of those such as Wisdom while studying this with perhaps small pros. 1958b). in working con. (1952) and Mays (1956) who. In the pure science to which they were ac- customed." Wigglesworth (1955) sential disagreement between their has noted this strategy on the part of point of view and the one offered "pure" scientists. pp. They further recognize that 4 Miller (1959. So has own heuristics would have to do so by Miller (1959) in advocating the a trial and error of heuristic principles. and Newell. and Simon. that strategy of working from the goal back to is. "Logic Theorist. both in adequacy and type of errors. Simon (1958a. For the mixed approach. the comparisons are regarded as equally tations generated. represents already achieved general ward from the goal eliminates the necessity knowledge about the domain under of symbolic trial and error in creative search. have found the machines In presenting their case for adding failing to imitate life just in their "heuristics" to the program of the orderly inspection of all possibilities. there is a useful strategy Each permutation must be compared with available to symbolic trial and error and not each of the current and previous permuta- to overt trial and error. or when while all point to the reduction in trials 2(4 + 42 + 43) or 168 alternatives had been which it can achieve. good moves at chess or solve logic problems. heuristic of searching backward from with no guarantee that any would the goal. and that adding to this gen- thinking. Shaw. In the pure strategy. 244-246) is wrong in possession of an effective heuristic implying that the strategy of working back. Such innovations have obviated the lem A they could turn to problem B. (The devices of learning from which his concrete illustrations come. This produces a stance amounts to 7. the start position and each subsequent the start would thus involve exploring just alternative would be compared with the as many permutations as the pure strategy goal. CAMPBELL or "nontrivial. success before exhausting the 47 generation Wisdom (1952). However. mental possibilities for thought-search Shaw. natives. but are instead typically examined. comparisons per alternative are required. which in this in- currently from both ends. Shaw. no es. In the spatial locomotion problems process. Advocacy of the heuristic 4* + 4B + 4« + 47 or 21. many more of exploring all paths from the start posi. . In none of these is it the junction would be encountered at the claimed that trial and error is eliminated. however. and Newell. and Simon recognize Simon have emphasized the inadequacy that a machine which would develop its of blind trial and error.845 comparisons involved. In the instance suggested by Miller in over either of the pure approaches would which each locus branches into 4 alterna. if they were unable to solve prob. His mistake comes from assuming eral knowledge will be a blind search that only one path leads into a goal or sub- goal. This gain out to lie 7 stages apart.

in example: order to be able to scan its experience for general principles of strategy We have given enough estimates of the sizes of the spaces involved .g. 1954) has. to cast suspicion (1958b). for trials. But they too recognize unconvention- tried on new problem sets rather than ality and no doubt numerosity as a necessary. through a trial and error of heuristics. In their cellent paper on the processes of cre. one might frequent tactical advantage of a trial better speak of an "orientation to. been a major source of in- specific domain of their discovery. organic evolution is to keep a record ogeneity and volume of trials the only of what works. particularly when trials are a strategy for all knowledge processes. but most im- fied in expecting solutions to be non. What STATUS AS A THEORY they would validly stress. Another minor point of disagree- agreements I have with their ex." The dis. even at the ex- pense of repeating its errors. must specify a possible randomly distributed. Polya (1945. process will be "direct." or and error of general strategic prin. is the very At the level here developed. rather than taking heuristics have been discovered. and. if not a sufficient condition old. this perspective merely use clues. successful and unsuccessful. . They would probably for him a trial and error approach is also agree that no problem solving a heuristic of fundamental importance. The advantage of such esses here outlined to be possible. & Theorist" might be programed to Simon." no classificatory effort nor attempt to At many points. ning process as time consuming as the original search process which pro- The blind-variation-and-selective-reten- duced the record. but may be worth stating sight they propose that it keep a nonetheless. 63). . suggests a similar of a hit. the greater the heter. The gen- greater the chance of a productive in- eral preponderance of wrong tries at novation. BLIND VARIATION AND SELECTIVE RETENTION IN CREATIVE THOUGHT 395 all represent heuristics in this sense. rather than a "theory of. 62). and would introduce a scan- (p. Shaw. p. but we are in general justi. of heuristic devices will be limited to the course. efforts to consider how a "Logic ative thinking (Newell. 1958b) are thus minor matters learn a general heuristic from hind- of emphasis. and to show mechanism for the trial-and-error . and on a trial basis. The strategy of tion model unequivocally implies that ceteris paribus. once such general points to problems.) significant contingencies with prior They might also agree that most clues. and spiration for all efforts to introduce can only be extended to other domains heuristics into problem solving. Doubling the number of every level. theory must not only provide several of course. They say. to further clarify the record of the outcomes of all past position here advocated. plus problems of memory efforts very nearly doubles the chance glut and access. Implementing this would upon a theory of creativity which places its put a tremendous strain upon memory emphasis upon increase in trial and error storage.portantly. the that step toward theory of providing advantages of a hierarchized trial and guesses at answers: e. for the proc- error process. a strategy depends upon the ecology. of creativity (19S8b.memory processes.. small part of the total domain and the Heuristics can probably best be learned repetitiousness among trials is low.a "perspective on" creative thought ciples over a trial and error involving processes. ment may be mentioned.

396 DONALD T. Ashby's instance may seem evasive at a particularly (19S2) model and most computer memory crucial point. so useful and so (1959) has called it an explanatory thrilling when first encountered. even tention theory of creative thinking though now buttressed with the de. The biological study of the evolution of actual spatial displacement of solids takes any species takes the form of a post hoc place. Scriven 1. The basic insight. this available in the brain and usually if not constitutes a weakness of the model. nonetheless. ever continuing process that is essentially un- Note that there are still ambiguities predictable in its details. We are currently netic memory drum.Wright (1960). While other predictive Hebb (1949). the variation is taken as a theories in this area. "undetermined. or at least metatheoretical. 4. There can be no about the status as theory of the well formula for serendipity (p. in the extreme. tive as a teleological one. 148). is close to rather than a predictive theory. then an evolutionary mental studies of evolution with process toward better fit to any set of con- viruses." (1951) theory seems particularly promising. The theory suffers from the multiplicity . It is for these reasons that Pringle's reconstruction of a unique.perimental settings appropriate to test- tion characteristic of a developed ing the theory for an inherent attribute theory. more publicly refuted. It is essentially a causal processes working backward in theory of the conditions favorable for an time.5 While the perspective even of the type of theory per se. netic theory of evolution has added Like the theory of natural selection in subtle details to the overall description organic evolution. The problems which a selective re- tion through natural selection. the serious problems. Citations to the im.called attention. to some equivocal empirical implications. and insects. Note the special problem of a processes at a more molecular level. as an unexplained part of portant contributions of Pringle (1951) and the explanation. From such specifica. established principle of organic evolu. 2. and has indeed been taken as search involves a spatial displacement of a denial of determinism or as a rival meta- solids impossible in the brain. whose statistical ge- physical. While being an analytic tautology rather than a the present writer feels that Scriven synthetic description of process: if indeed has somewhat undervalued the experi. descriptive given. cific spectacular achievements in creative tion to the problem of appropriate brain thought must be similar in nature. For most applications of the selective 5 This paper does not attempt to review retention model.of the process. has commented in a standing of marvelously purposive similar vein: processes without the introduction of The theory is deterministic only in an ex- ideological metaphysics or of pseudo. historical process.have mistaken the past absence of ex- tions will come the subtlety of predic. bacteria. or if not usable. The achievement of any and one wonders why it has not been more general regularities must be probabilistic used. this brain analogue to switching.variations occur which are differentially selected and propagated. CAMPBELL search of these. and may sistent selective criteria is inevitable. process models. Even Sewall major advantage to it may be meta. always dependent upon a clock within which 3. as in the physic of "spontaneous change" as presump- stepping switch or the rotation of a mag.shares with that of evolution include tailed genetic model of the variation the following: and retention processes.ceedingly limited sense. Computer memory getting detailed deterministic explanations search processes making use of timed pulses of the mutation of genes. it provides an under. Studies starting from spe- See Pribram (1959) for a recent contribu. he has in its very general state has some un. but until something require a precision of timing dependent upon comparable is available to predict the gen- a stability of dimension presumably not eration of heterogeneous thought trials. do not begin to represent this theories likewise depend upon unexplained literature.

the evidences as which are judged to be still more to the organismic form and environmental parameters are often confounded. the selected thought trials are checked plicable to the theory of creative thinking. varying in the accuracy these people. with an iterative process whereby an organ. such as vision and . etc. Manipulation problem which the blind-variation-and. point that all processes leading to ex- ria. In the usual applications. the theory is less self. for all theories there be so for any study of truly great creative is lacking a disciplined relation both thinking in science. Pre- theory of organic evolution. varying in their number. p. represent argument in favor ism adapts to (achieves knowledge of) an of rival theories of creative thought. 1959. accuracy pansions of knowledge involve a blind- of representation of environmental con. ing the research literature on human and-error learning. and precision. environment. These in. While Duncan (1959) makes clear in review- this is not so for laboratory studies of trial. however. propagation process. more people working on the problem (&) A mnemonic search or thought. Particularly characteristic input-output variables. perhaps in accuracy and accessibility. the environ. a parameters are implied. Ceteris paribus. (d) Selective crite. the more heterogeneous trial process. independent environment. or ess. Where selection ratio. idiosyncrasy. variation-and-selective-retention proc- tingencies. it is particularly apt to problem solving. (c) A thought-trial gen- erating and changing process. of course. Processes. Whereas the theory deals This inventory of weaknesses does not. varying SUMMARY in rate. tion for selected thought trials of a and in contrast to the successful theories quite different order from the memory of macrophysics. providing the other in comparable degree in the modern variables can be held constant. This is dictions of this order have been speci- the unfavorable ratio of hypothesized fied in the discussion of individual dif- unobservable processes to observable ferences. providing a reten- the theory makes available an embarrassing surfeit of possible reconstructions. Even in its present form. the of environment. And as same data series is used to infer both. out by overt locomotion in the external 5. the less the time pres- with which it represents potential overt sure. (e) A preservation or there are gaps in the historical knowledge. (/) A reality testing process in which This is perhaps the most important of Scriven's (19S9) points. and This paper has attempted to make lack of repetitiousness among succes. exploration. (See Campbell. the scope. creative solution is more likely the clude: (a) A mnemonic representation longer a problem is worked upon. a serious empirical implications. varying perhaps in sensi- ment is not described or describable prior to tivity to disconfirming feed-back.) findings. heterogeneity. traces of the nonselected ones. the organismic achievement of adaptation to that environment. varying perhaps in more variable the thought trials. Note that even are the unequivocal predictions re- in its sketchy form here given. varying disciplining. the theory contains many There is in addition. accuracy. less specific in its predictions. in that the amorphous. BLIND VARIATION AND SELECTIVE RETENTION IN CREATIVE THOUGHT 397 of possible mediations it posits. more evasive of potential disconfirmation. and fineness of detail. independently. 157 for epistemological citations to this to experimental undertakings and to problem. some garding the volume and heterogeneity 6 to 14 or more separately variable of thought trials. In this. still less adequate. the psychological and epistemological sive thought trials. and one equally ap. sharpness. of any one of the 14 variables just selective-retention theory of creative listed should increase the number of thought faces which is not present creative products.

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