How Did Humans Become So Creative? A Computational Approach

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Gabora, L., Steve DiPaola: How Did Humans Become So Creative? A Computational Approach. In: Computational Creativity 2012 ICCC 2012, 203-210.



This paper summarizes efforts to computationally mod- el two transitions in the evolution of human creativity: its origins about two million years ago, and the ̳big bang‘ of creativity about 50,000 years ago. Using a computational model of cultural evolution in which neural network based agents evolve ideas for actions through invention and imitation, we tested the hypothe- sis that human creativity began with onset of the capaci- ty for recursive recall. We compared runs in which agents were limited to single-step actions to runs in which they used recursive recall to chain simple actions into complex ones. Chaining resulted in higher diversi- ty, open-ended novelty, no ceiling on the mean fitness of actions, and greater ability to make use of learning. Using a computational model of portrait painting, we tested the hypothesis that the explosion of creativity in the Middle/Upper Paleolithic was due to onset of con- textual focus: the capacity to shift between associative and analytic thought. This resulted in faster conver- gence on portraits that resembled the sitter, employed painterly techniques, and were rated as preferable. We conclude that recursive recall and contextual focus pro- vide a computationally plausible explanation of how humans evolved the means to transform this planet.

Extended Abstract


author = {Liane Gabora, Steve DiPaola},
title = {How Did Humans Become So Creative? A Computational Approach},
editor = {Mary Lou Maher, Kristian Hammond, Alison Pease, Rafael Pérez y Pérez, Dan Ventura and Geraint Wiggins},
booktitle = {Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Computational Creativity},
series = {ICCC2012},
year = {2012},
month = {May},
location = {Dublin, Ireland},
pages = {203-210},
url = {, },
publisher = {International Association for Computational Creativity},
keywords = {computational, creativity},

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