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Giovacchini, P.L. (1960). On Scientific Creativity. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 8:407-426.

(1960). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 8:407-426

On Scientific Creativity

Peter L. Giovacchini, M.D.


I have had the opportunity of studying eight scientists who have been universally recognized as talented and creative, some of them having made fundamental contributions to their fields. An attempt has been made in this paper to investigate the creative process in terms of the ego operations that may facilitate the creative potential, rather than only in terms of specific id factors or neurotic dynamisms and conflict situations. Such an approach does not add to our knowledge of the sources of creativity which may contain many variables, the constitutional being prominent among them. These patients all showed at one time or other varying degrees of decompensation, which made it possible to

study the various levels of the personality. When their defenses were re-established the character structure seemed to be that of an obsessive compulsive. Decompensation occurred when the ego was unable to subject id impulses to binding by higher ego systems. In the decompensated state, the ego was overwhelmed by primary-process operations, and the patient was unable to work. However, when compulsive defenses were working well, secondary-process operations predominated, and they were logical and coherent, but crass and materialistic, and unable to think imaginatively or produce creatively.

The creative operations of the ego were seen to consist of a balance of primary and secondary process. This ego has the ability to bind the chaotic impulses emerging from the unconscious, fuse them with external reality, and refine and integrate the product. When this was achieved, a new segment was added to reality. During creative periods the higher ego systems received energy from the emerging drives which led to hypercathexis and greater functional capacity in dealing with the very same drives and in subjecting them to the laws of the secondary process. The role of the memory trace in thought processes and creativity is also discussed.

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