Categorical Error as Creative Insight

In Concepts and Cateogies, Creativity, No Readymade World on 2010/08/30 at 8:11 pm

The Gelman Test: Which is the Correct Pair?

There are many psychological tests that attempt to measure our ability to categorise things for accuracy and speed.  One such test is shown above.  Out of curiosity, I decided to try it on my son when he was 3 years old.  He did not hesitate to say that the correct pair is 2 and 3, ie cat and wheel.  Since the “correct” pair by the majority of subjects is truck and wheel, I asked him why he thought otherwise.  I was expecting him to say he was just joking, but instead he surprised me by saying that both and cat and wheel were black!

The pairing of the black cat and the black wheel is technically a categorical error.  In other words you would have got it “wrong” in an examination.  But the categorical error is also a creative insight, albeit hidden from most.

“Errors” are often relative and can open up alternative lines of reasoning and creative thought.  On the contrary, an obsession to be “correct” can be stifling, and promotes a herd mentality.

Architect Charles Moore famously collected paraphernalia from all over the world and placed them in unusual juxtaposition in his home to stimulate new relationships, connections and ideas.  He was deliberately inducing categorical errors to turn them into creative insight.

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