Howard Ernest Gruber was an American psychologist and pioneer of the psychological study of creativity. A native of Brooklyn, Gruber graduated from Brooklyn College with a degree in psychology, earned his Ph.D. from Cornell University, and went on to a distinguished academic career. He worked with Jean Piaget in Geneva and later co-founded the Institute for Cognitive Studies at Rutgers with Dorothy Dinnerstein. At Columbia University Teachers College, he continued to pursue his interests in the history of science, and particularly the work of Charles Darwin. Gruber's work led to several important discoveries about the creative process and the developmental psychology of creativity.
His work on Charles Darwin entitled Darwin on Man: A Psychological Study of Scientific Creativity, became the groundwork of his methodological approach for the case study of evolving systems. This book was awarded Science Book of the Year for 1974 by Phi Beta Kappa.
Key aspects of this approach are a radical focus on individuals as situated in a network of enterprise. The method uses a strong existential perspective as regards the "creative" individual who is said to act at all times with knowledge, purpose and affect. Creativity is purposeful work.
Howard E. Gruber was a cognitive psychologist, interested in the history of science and the minds of creative persons. The evolving systems approach to creativity, supported by the case study method, emanated from Gruber’s study of the life of Charles Darwin, which spanned almost three decades (Gruber, 1988). The case study method defined by Gruber was essential to understanding the creative person holistically, including all factors that influenced the creative person’s life and their thought processes.
In his 1974 volume entitled Stimulating Creativity, Morris Stein acknowledged the significance of the case study method in obtaining rich and detailed data and made connections between the interest of the investigator and the area of the creative person’s life or work that is emphasized. He referenced Freud, for example, who emphasized da Vinci’s mother when he studied the life history of da Vinci. Because the case study can be influenced by the investigator’s interests, Stein (1974) highlights the need for investigators to be attentive when conducting case studies of creative persons.
During the time that Howard Gruber was fine-tuning the case study method as a highly qualitative approach to understanding creative persons, Frank X. Barron was working on objective techniques of assessment. Baron was a cognitive psychologist who, like Gruber, earned a Ph.D. in psychology in 1950. However, Gruber contended that psychometric measures show only poor correspondence to real-world creative achievement and they do not address how creative work is actually done (Gruber & Bödeker, 2005). Stein (1974) articulated the difference between creativity manifested in the real-world compared to creativity manifested in test scores as analogous to a chemist who synthesizes compounds in a laboratory to obtain an optimal product, and the psychologist who uses psychometrics to get pure measures of the factors he believes are associated with creativity. Guilford had been at the fore of the psychometric approach to creativity and developed a battery of psychological tests such as the Guilford Plot Titles Test, Guilford's Unusual Uses Test and Simile Insertions. Stein (1974) makes the distinction that many of the Guilford tests are used for establishing the effectiveness of creativity training rather than as measures of creativity. There were also connections between Stein and Barron, regarding the study of psychedelic drugs (Barron, Jarvik & Bunnell, 1964) and their impacts as stimulants of creativity. Research indicates that the experiences elicited by psychedelic drugs are similar to phenomena reported by creative individuals or in studies of the creative process (Stein, 1974).
In 1967 Gruber co-founded the Institute for Cognitive Studies at Rutgers University with Dorothy Dinnerstein. In that same year the Creative Education Foundation, which was founded by Sidney Parnes and Alex Osborne in 1954, launched the Journal of Creative Behavior, the first research publication devoted entirely to the study of creativity. The journal is now published by Wiley-Blackwell, the market leader for academic journals (CEF, 2019). The Institute of Cognitive Studies co-founded by Gruber in 1967 later became the Rutgers Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience with a mission to advance understanding of the brain’s structure and function through excellence in neuroscience research and training (Saxon, 2005; Rutgers, 2019).
The Howard Gruber World Wide Web Site - http://davidlavery.net/Gruber/
Wallace, Doris and Howard E. Gruber, eds. (1989). Creative People at Work: Twelve Cognitive Case Studies. New York: Oxford University Press.
NY Times Obituary - http://condor.admin.ccny.cuny.edu/~hhartman/howie%20gruber%20obit.doc
Darwin on Man: A Psychological Study of Scientific Creativity. 2nd. ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.
Gugghenheim Fellowship winner - List of Guggenheim Fellowships awarded in 1974
Haste, Helen (15 March 2005). "Howard Gruber: Psychologist exploring the creative process". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
Science Award Winners". The Phi Beta Kappa Society. 2011. Retrieved 27 November 2012.