Vygotsky defines creative activity as follows: “We call creative activity all human activity that creates something new.” This is very important, given that in a human being we can recognize two fundamental types of behavior: a reproductive instinct and a creative or combinatory one. The first type is closely related to memory, and through it people reproduce or repeat fixed behavioral patterns, thus reviving memories of actions done previously, given the ability of our brain to retain traces of the experiences we have been through. But Vygotsky draws attention on the fact that our brain also has the ability to face and solve problems that are new and different from those they already know. It is about the capability to combine and create something new, to elaborate situations based on elements acquired before and apply them to new problems that occur.
In psychology, this creative activity of the brain based on combination is called imagination. However, for Vygotsky, this definition has a different meaning. He defines imagination as the basis of all creative activity, manifested in all the aspects of the cultural life, making artistic, scientific and technical creation possible. Consequently, we can state that all the cultural world, in contrast with the natural world, is a product of imagination and human creation.
Of course, creativity involves the same elements as other mental processes: a root source, a set of rules and different levels of development. This ability, like all the other mental processes and capabilities, is built in ascending manner, from the most simple to the most complex structures.
Moreover, this creative ability works together with all the other skills, using the rest of the mental processes and combining them. In regard to the relation between fantasy and reality in human behavior, Vygotsky mentions four aspects:
- All reasoning processes starts from elements extracted from reality, from previous experiences. One cannot create something starting from nothing. On this basis, he formulates the first law: “the creative activity of the imagination depends directly on the richness and variety of a person’s previous experience, because this experience provides the material from which the products of fantasy are constructed.”
- Next is the phase of intellectual incubation. This type of linkage is made possible due to the experience of someone else or so-called social experience. When the products of fantasy once again face the reality, the creative process occurs.
- “Emotional linkage” is another factor. For example, when we are overjoyed we see things one way, and when we are sad, we see them differently. Our perception of external objects is influenced by our emotions. Vygotsky calls this influence “the law of the general emotional sign”.
- It concerns certain images, produced by fantasy, that turn into reality by becoming what Vygotsky calls “crystallized images”. According to Vygotsky, the function of the creative activity is oriented towards looking for a perfect adaptation of man to his environment. Consequently, the basis of all creative activity resides in adaptation, which is also a source of necessities, yearnings and desires. What motivates creation is the necessity to build something “new”, being conscious of the fact that what is already known is not useful any more if we just repeat it.