Source: Needs for Order and Disorder as Motive in Creative Activity

Frank Barron in a 1957 research findings paper defines terms and suggests why some people come out of difficult childhoods with an interest in disorder. He postulates some of us take pleasure in trying to solve the puzzle manifest in the family environment dynamics. Here is his summary of findings:

“1. Creative people are more observant, and value accurate observation, truth telling to themselves, more.

2. They often tell or express only part-truths, but vividly, but the part they express is the generally unrecognized –– they point to the usually unobserved.

3. They see things as others do, but also as others do not.

4.They are thus independents in their cognition, and also value clearer cognition, so that they will suffer great personal pains to testify correctly.

5. They are motivated both to this value and this talent (independent, sharp observation) for self-preservative reasons (the ego– instincts at work).

6. They are born with greater brain capacity –– more ability to hold a lot of ideas in their head at once, and to compare more ideas with one another, hence to make a richer synthesis.

7. In addition to unusual endowment in terms of the ego-instincts, they have much sexual drive as well (both pregenital and genital) because they are by constitution more vigorous organisms and more sensitive (nervous).

8. Their universe is thus naturally more complex, and in addition they usually have more complex lives, leading them to prefer much tension in the interest of the pleasure they obtain upon its discharge.

9. Hence, they also have more apprehensions of unconscious motives, fantasy life, etc. They note or observe their impulses more, and allow them expression in the interest of truth.

10. Creative people have exceptionally strong egos. The self is strongest when it can go far back regressive (to let primitive fantasies, tabooed impulses into consciousness and behavior) and yet return to a high degree of rationality. The creative person is both more primitive and more cultured, more destructive and more constructive, crazier and saner, than the average person.

11. When the distinction between subject (self) and object is most secure, the distinction can with most security be allowed to disappear for time (as in mysticism and in love). This is based on true sympathy with the not-self, or with the opposite of those things which comprise defensive self-definition. The strong ego realizes that it can afford to allow regression, because it is secure in the knowledge that it can correct itself.

12. The objective freedom of the organism is at a maximum when this capacity exist, and creative potential is directly a function of objective freedom.

In conclusion, … I am thinking of the “need for disorder” as a need for a situation which cannot be ordered according to accepted schemata but which is likely to have an order of its own, though hard to apprehend. In brief, the creative individual is someone who has an exceptionally strong need to find order where none appears, and who as a result of his own abilities and personal experience honors the apparently unclassifiable with his consecrated attention.”

Barron, Frank, Institute of Personality Assessment and Research University of California at Berkeley. Paper presented: Taylor, C. (Ed.), 1957 The Second University of Utah Research Conference on the Identification of Creative Scientific Talent, pp. 119-124.



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