Four Stages of the Creative Thinking Process


Graham Wallas theorizes the creative process in his book, The Art of Thought. In this book, Wallas asserts the creative process comes in four stages of creative thinking.


The four stages are:






Stage One: Preparation

In the first stage of the creative thinking process, you define the problem, need, or desire, and then collect any information regarding the topic or problem. Your goal is to acquire as much knowledge as you can about the topic or problem.

After you gather the information, you read, sort, evaluate, organize, and outline it. You do anything that can help you move towards finding a solution. You want to immerse yourself in the topic or problem. In this stage, you are trying to absorb as much information as possible to allow this information to go into your subconscious.



Stage Two: Incubation

Incubation involves mentally processing the information you collected in stage one. The information will begin to churn in the back of your mind.  Your conscious and subconscious minds both work on the idea. Your begin making new connections, separating out unnecessary information, and cultivating new thoughts.

As you move through the incubation stage, you want to slowly step back from the topic or problem and let your mind contemplate and work through potential solutions or ideas.  Letting your mind wander leads to greater creativity.

The unconscious thought process involved in creative thinking is at work during this stage. Therefore, you what to stop consciously thinking of the topic or problem and turn your attention to something else. You may go for a walk, go for a jog, or do some gardening. Basically, anything that can give your conscious mind a rest. You want to give your unconscious mind time to digest all the material you gathered in the preparation stage.

All the information that you gathered slowly starts to take a subconscious effect. You stop consciously thinking about the problem you are trying to solve. After a period of incubation, the creative ideas often occur unexpectedly.

The incubation stage can last minutes, weeks, or even years.



Stage Three: Illumination

This is the stage where the idea, which has been incubating, suddenly takes shape. This is the “Aha Moment,” or the “light bulb” or “Eureka” moment. This usually comes when you are not actively thinking of a solution or creative idea. You are often doing something else like exercising, taking a shower, driving, or just resting.

You will typically have an emotional reaction of joy, knowing you have found the idea or solution for which you have been searching. This is the feeling you get when you have been struggling with your thoughts and cannot quite put your finger on what is missing. Suddenly, the ambiguous becomes clear. The idea appears suddenly and comes with a feeling of certainty. This is when all the pieces to the puzzle seem to fit together. Your overwhelming impulse is to get the ideas down on paper or other recording instrument.

Unlike the other stages, illumination is often very brief, involving a tremendous rush of insight within a short period of time.



Stage Four: Verification

After you come up with a creative idea, you want to determine if it will work or not. Therefore, in the final stage of the creative thinking process, you want to evaluate, test, and hopefully verify the idea that came to you in the illumination stage.

You need to use your analytical and critical thinking skills to vet your idea. If the idea or solution is not going to work, you may have to go back through the creative process from the beginning. However, if it is acceptable or if you just need some minor modifications, the creative process is complete.

Four Types of Creativity — Arne Dietrich (2004) identifies 4 different types of creativity with corresponding different brain activities. Think of it like a matrix:



Creativity can be either emotionally or cognitively based, and it can also be spontaneous or deliberate. That gives you the four quadrants.


#1: Thomas Edison — Deliberate and cognitive creativity is the kind of creativity that comes from sustained work in a discipline. For example, Thomas Edison, the inventor of the electric light bulb, was a deliberate and cognitive creator. He ran experiment after experiment before he would come up with an invention. In addition to the light bulb, Thomas Edison also invented the phonograph, and the motion picture camera. One of his famous quotes is:


“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”


Deliberate and cognitive creativity comes from the pre-frontal cortex (PFC) in your brain. The PFC allows you to do 2 things: 1) pay focused attention and 2) make connections among information that you have stored in other parts of your brain. In order for deliberate, cognitive creativity to occur, you need to already have a body of knowledge about one or more particular topics. When you are being deliberatively and cognitively creative you are putting together existing information in new and novel ways.


#2: Personal breakthrough “a-ha” moments – If you’ve ever had a personal crisis (relationship break-up, got fired, gone through a bankruptcy), and then had a flash of insight about yourself and what chain of bad decisions you might have made that contributed to the crisis, then you may have experienced deliberate, emotional creativity. This type of creativity also involves the PFC. That is the deliberate part. But instead of focusing attention on a particular area of knowledge or expertise, people who are engaging in deliberate, emotional creativity have a-ha moments having to do with feelings and emotions. The cingulate cortex is the part of the brain that processes complex feelings that are related to how you interact with others, and your place in the world. And the cingulated cortex is connected to the PFC. These two brain areas are active with this type of creativity.


#3 Isaac Newton “Eureka” moments — Have you ever been working on a problem or idea that you can’t seem to solve. Maybe you have been trying to figure out how to staff a project at work, and you just don’t see how you can free up the right people to do the project. Then you go to lunch, and on your way back you get a flash of insight about how to staff the project. This is an example of spontaneous and cognitive creativity.


Spontaneous and cognitive creativity involves the basal ganglia of the brain. This is where dopamine is stored, and it is a part of the brain that operates outside of your conscious awareness. During spontaneous, cognitive creativity, the conscious brain stops working on the problem, and this gives the unconscious part of the brain a chance to work on it instead. If a problem requires “out of the box” thinking then you need to remove it temporarily from conscious awareness. By doing a different, unrelated activity, the PFC is able to connect information in new ways via your unconscious mental processing. The story about Isaac Newton thinking of gravity while watching a falling apple is an example of spontaneous and cognitive creativity. Notice that this type of creativity does need an existing body of knowledge. That is the cognitive part.


#4: “Epiphanies” — Spontaneous and emotional creativity comes from the amygdala. The amygdala is where basic emotions are processed. When the conscious brain and the PFC are resting, then it is possible for spontaneous ideas and creations to emerge. This is the kind of creativity that you think of when you think about great artists and musicians. Often these kind of spontaneous and emotional creative moments are quite powerful, such as an epiphany, or a religious experience. There is not specific knowledge necessary (it’s not cognitive) for this type of creativity, but there is often skill (writing, artistic, musical) needed to create something from the spontaneous and emotional creative idea.




Deliberate and cognitive creativity requires a high degree of knowledge and lots of time

Deliberate and emotional creativity requires quiet time

Spontaneous and cognitive creativity requires stopping work on the problem and getting away

Spontaneous and emotional creativity probably can’t be designed for




East Hampton Beach, Long Island A34291.jpg 4,000 × 1,845; 9.06 MB




SCULPSURE QUADRANT- I saw this being played and advertised at my doctors office


IN IT YOU SEE A 16 SQUARE QUADRANT MODEL (although there is more than 16 squares but Doesburg drew quadrants)- THEO VAN DOESBURG





Hart suggests that the overall structure of the Finnegans Wake–by the three-plus-one pattern and its four-plus-one schematic compliment–can also be understood in terms of the "cross of the quaternity" or Å symbol. This cross within a circle corresponds to the siglum in the Wake manuscripts used to designate what Hart refers to as the "highly important ninth question in I.6.9":

if a human being duly fatigued [...] having plenxty off time on his gouty hands [...] were [...] accorded [...] with an earsighted view of old hopinhaven [...] then what would that fargazer seem to seemself to seem seeming of, dimm it all?" [FW 143.4-27]27

The Wake’s answer: "A collideorscope" (FW 143.28), can be seen as one of the numerous mechanical terms with which Joyce’s text describes itself, and Hart contends that Joyce’s use of the Å symbol to designate a passage dealing with the structure of Finnegans Wake "suggests that in one structural sense, the whole book forms a mandala," which the Å symbol represents: "a quadripartite with diametrically inverted ornaments."28



According to Hart, the four quadrants of the circle constitute "the Wheel of Fortune, while Book IV lies at the ‘hub.’"29 An interesting corollary to this analysis arises from a consideration of the apparently "circular" structure of the Wake whereby the last line in the book is often considered as turning back upon the first line, so that the book itself becomes literally a circle (a "book of Doublends Jined" [FW 20.15-16]), through the "sentence":


A way a lone a last a loved a long the [|the outside of the book|] riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs. [FW 628.15-16, 3.01-13]


But if this sentence belongs to both the first (I.1) and last (IV.1) chapters of Finnegans Wake, then there can be no simple divide between the first and last chapters. In his seminar "Joyce le symptôme I," Lacan suggests: "déjà son dernier mot ne peut se rejoindre qu’au premier, le the sur lequel il se termine se raccolant au riverrun dont il se débute, ce qui indique le circulaire?"30 Lacan goes on to argue that the structure of Finnegans Wake should, in fact, not be described as circular but rather as knotted, comparing the signifying relation of "the" and "riverrun" to the topological metaphor of the Borromean knot. Lacan further relates the idea of the knot back to the "circle and cross" of Hart’s mandalic Å schematisation, arguing that the function of this is not so much to render the Wake’s structure as a closed totality, but rather "à savoir l’ambiguïté du 3 et du 4, à savoir ce à quoi il restait collé, attaché, à l’interrogation de Vico."31


The exploration of the problem of Borromean knots represented Lacan’s attempt at elaborating a topology of the Real, Symbolic, and Imaginary,32 whose ambiguous structure, like Finnegans Wake, turns about the seemingly impossible equation 3=4, as a transition from the structure of the trinity to that of the quaternity. Which is also to say that if, according to conventional logics of scale, a sentence cannot be greater than a chapter, then the sentence "A way a lone [...] back to Howth Castle and Environs" belongs to one chapter, and the number of chapters in Finnegans Wake is not seventeen but sixteen, and the number of books is three and not four–or rather, there are both possibilities at once. In this way Book IV, the Wakean ricorso, the "hub" or "double axis" of the Wake’s mandalic Å structure, initiates this structural turn at the same time as this turning effaces it–providing a virtually schematic model of what Blanchot and Derrida describe as a de-centred structure.


Elsewhere in Finnegans Wake, this topological structuration recurs in the diagrammatical rendering of a doubly articulated "Viconian" mechanism, in which we might detect the solicitation of a particular "technology" of emplacement in the co-ordinates A.L.P.:



1. The book of Jonah is divided into four brief chapters and

can be seen as a summary of Jonah's various standings with


These are:

a. A man running from God. Ch. 1

b. A man running to God. Ch. 2

c. A man running with God. Ch. 3

d. A man running ahead of God. Ch. 4



In chapters 7 and 8, we have Zechariah’s four challenging messages to the Jewish people—two messages in each chapter. Notice that each message begins, “Then the Word of the Lord came to Zechariah…” (7:4, 7:8, 8:1 and 8:18). It is important to realize that these messages were the direct word of the Lord to the people through the prophet Zechariah, and each message builds upon or amplifies the previous messages.

Zechariah 7:1-3 tells us that the four messages are the Lord’s response to a question raised by a delegation of Jews from Bethel. These concerned Jews had traveled 10-15 miles to ask the priests and prophets in Jerusalem whether or not they should continue to mourn and fast in the 5th and 7th months, as they had done for many years. These sorrowful fasts were not commanded by the Lord in the Mosaic Law—they began after Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians. The fast of the 5th month commemorated the destruction of Solomon’s Temple on the 9th day of Av. This same date is still remembered today by many Jews, since the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70AD also occurred on the 9th of Av. This Hebrew month comes in July or August of our calendar year. The fast of the 7th month commemorated the assassination of Gedaliah who was the governor of Judah after Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians. You can read about this murder in Jeremiah 41.

The delegation from Bethel had kept these fasts for 70 years in Babylon, but were wondering if they should continue the commemorative fasts now that they had returned to the Land and the Temple was being rebuilt. The priests apparently didn’t have an answer. However, the Lord gave Zechariah the answer —but not a direct answer. In the four messages given through Zechariah, God exposed the hypocritical hearts of many of the people and showed how different the future will be, when Messiah’s kingdom will be set up and there will be no more need to fast.

Because hypocrisy is still a problem in the Church today, and because the peace of the Messiah’s literal kingdom on this earth is still in the future, Zechariah’s four messages are enduring messages. Each message speaks to the hearts of God’s people today.


Paul’s epistles may be divided into four groups:

  1. 1 and 2 Thes. (A.D. 50, 51)

  2. 1 and 2 Cor., Gal., Rom. (A.D. 55, 57)

  3. Philip., Col., Eph., Philem., Heb. (A.D. 60, 62)

  4. Titus, 1 and 2 Tim. (A.D. 64, 65)


The taxonomy is based on a character theory. This character theory consists of four characters: Achievers, Explorers, Socializers, and Killers. These are imagined according to a quadrant model where the X axis represents preference for interacting with other players vs. exploring the world and the Y axis represents preference for interaction vs. unilateral action.[2]


Jon Radoff has proposed a new four-quadrant model of player motivations (immersion, cooperation, achievement, and competition) that has a goal of combining simplicity along with the major motivational elements that apply to all games (multiplayer or otherwise).[16][17]



The number 72 played a significant role to the modern-day Assassins. Most notably, it was used as the password to gain access to the Colosseum Vault during the retrieval of the Apple of Eden in October 2012.




As evident in the Scrolls of Romulus, the earliest-known user of the number 72 as the password to the Vault was Marcus Junius Brutus, circa 45 BCE. The next known person to open the Vault was Ezio Auditore da Firenze in 1506, to seal the Apple of Eden he possessed within. Due to Desmond Miles' vision of Ezio in the Sanctuary, it was known that Ezio later returned to the Villa Auditore to leave behind the clues to the password, which would allow future Assassins to access the Vault and obtain the Apple.


Ezio left the clue on the Sanctuary staircase, just behind the bookcase in Mario Auditore's study. It consisted of a tetractys, an etching of an equilateral triangle with nine other equilaterals within it – the same marking found on the Colosseum Vault's door – and the numbers 1419, 1420, and 1421, which were only visible to those who possessed the gift of Eagle Vision.


Modern-day discoveryEdit

"The Tetragrammaton. The 72 names of God. You see? They're all contained within three verses: Exodus 19 through 21. And, get this, you'll like this. If you arrange the four Hebrew letters in God's name within an equilateral triangle, their numerical values add up to the same number: 72."

―Shaun explaining the password to the other Assassins.[src]


Desmond and Lucy examining the markings

When the group of Assassins first arrived at Monteriggioni and gained access to the Sanctuary, Desmond noticed and read out the numbers written into the wall. Shaun Hastings posited them to indicate years, though he could not think of their significance to each other. After discovering the Apple's location through the use of the Animus, the Assassins pondered on how to access the Vault under the Colosseum. Rebecca Crane discovered that the door required a password, but a power failure cut short their attempts to discover it.


As the Assassins waited in the dark and contemplated their next move, Desmond remembered the markings and pointed them out. With this, Shaun finally discovered the numbers' significance and explained them to the rest of the team; pointing out the 72 names of God found in the Bible's book of Exodus, contained within chapter 14, verses of 19 to 21. Having obtained the password, the Assassins left the Sanctuary and headed for the Colosseum. As Desmond made his way through the ruins of the landmark and the path of the Lair of Romulus underneath, Lucy Stillman realized that the current date, October 10, was exactly 72 days away from the Abstergo Industries satellite launch on December 21.


Though she wondered aloud if it was more than a coincidence, Desmond dismissed her unease, stating that, "Someone probably wanted to make sure we get the password right." The team eventually arrived at the Temple of Juno, where the door to the Vault was located. After briefly wondering if the door would understand English, Desmond spoke "72" aloud, subsequently opening the Vault and allowing the Assassins to enter. As Desmond activated the Apple in the Vault, Juno (a member of the First Civilization) told him that his journey would begin on the 72nd day before the awakening.




Rodrigo Borgia, Maria Auditore, and Israel Putnam all died at the age of 72.

Shaun Hastings mentioned that the construction on the Colosseum started in the year 72 CE.

William Miles mentioned in an email to Shaun that the team in Osaka was scheduled to make contact with headquarters in 72 hours, but went "dark".

Giovanni Mocenigo was the 72nd Doge of Venice.

In Leonardo da Vinci's famous sketch, the "Vitruvian Man", the space between the man's lower arm to upper leg had an angle of 72 degrees.

An arch on a bridge in his well-known painting, the Mona Lisa, appeared to display the number 72.

The most famous of da Vinci's scientific journals, The Codex Leicester, was a 72-page notebook.

The Latin Rule, the Creed of the Templars written by Hugues de Payens and Bernard de Clairvaux, had 72 clauses.

During the conclusion of Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Shaun mentioned that a Phrygian cap and a Masonic eye came together in only one place, though he was frozen before he could continue. This one place was actually on the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of France, with 17 articles, which was approved in 1789. Coincidentally, 89 minus 17 equals 72.

The tetractys, the triangular figure displayed on the door to the Colosseum Vault, also featured in the Divine Science chapters of Assassin's Creed: Project Legacy.

In Assassin's Creed: Revelations, Ezio could train a total of 72 recruits to the rank of Assassin, not including Rhodes.

Desmond Miles was born on the 72nd day of the year 1987.

According to the Assassin's Creed II database, San Gimignano had 72 towers in its heyday.

In Assassin's Creed III, Haytham Kenway arrived in Colonial America after 72 days of travel.

In 1308, during the trials surrounding the disbandment of the Knights Templar, 72 of the arrested knights testified before Pope Clement V.

In Assassin's Creed III, on the barrier sealing off the Temple's inner chamber, the tetractys can be seen.



Critic Allen Alexander argues that religion is an important symbol and theme in The Bluest Eye, especially in how the God of Morrison's works possesses a "fourth face" outside of the Christian Trinity, and this explains and represents "the existence of evil, the suffering of the innocent and just--that seem so inexplicable in the face of a religious tradition that preaches the omnipotence of a benevolent God".[41] Alexander claims that much of the tragedy of Pecola's character stems from her attempts to rationalize her misfortune with the notion of an all-loving, all-powerful God. He further argues that, for Pecola, much of the story is about "discovering the inadequacy of Western theological models for those who have been marginalized by the dominant white culture".[41] While this ideology has negative effects on Pecola's sense of self worth, it also negatively impacts her mother Pauline, who fully accepts Christianity and in doing so spends most of her time away from her own family and caring for a white household. Alexander suggests that the image of a more human God, rather than a purely morally upstanding one, is a more traditional African view of deities and that this model is better suited to the lives of the African American characters in The Bluest Eye.[41]

The Bluest Eye provides an extended depiction of the ways in which internalized white beauty standards deform the lives of black girls and women


The novel is divided into the four seasons, but it pointedly refuses to meet the expectations of these seasons. For example, spring, the traditional time of rebirth and renewal, reminds Claudia of being whipped with new switches, and it is the season when Pecola’s is raped. Pecola’s baby dies in autumn, the season of harvesting. Morrison uses natural cycles to underline the unnaturalness and misery of her characters’ experiences. To some degree, she also questions the benevolence of nature, as when Claudia wonders whether “the earth itself might have been unyielding” to someone like Pecola.



In most Chinese languages and languages that borrow words from it, the words for "four" (四) and "death" (死) are written differently but pronounced similarly (somewhat like "sì" in Mandarin, "sei" in Cantonese, "shi" in Sino-Japanese, "tư" in Sino-Vietnamese, and "sa" in Sino-Korean). As a cultural trope, East Asian works of media tend to treat the number in much the way Western writers treat the number 13 (a number that Arabian and European culture consider Magical, and usually in a bad way).

As a similar point of reference, building floors and apartments are (mis)numbered accordingly to omit the fourth floornote or substitute the numeral with an alternative sign, such as the letter F or 3A, and some Japanese people prefer to say "yon" (the kun'yomi for four) instead of "shi" (the conventional on'yomi). Apparently the Japanese word form shi ni (four twos), which translates to 'death', gives the number eight a related association.

Powerful, usually Villainous, groups of four are often given the name of Shitennō, a reference to the Four Heavenly Kings, Buddhist guardian gods of the four cardinal directions. When not directly translated into Four Heavenly Kings, localizations may call them the Elite Four.

On an unrelated note, Christianity also has several examples of Four Is Death, with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the Four Last Things (Death, Judgment, Hell, and Glory). In Judaism, the number four is also prominent, some examples being the four worlds described in the Kabbalah, the four sons, the four horns of the altar in Daniel, the forty days of raining during the Deluge, and the four matriarchs (plus the Tetragrammaton, or four letter name—the written name of God YHVH).

Compare 108, 13 Is Unlucky and the Number of the Beast.

Note: This is not a repository for every time the number 4 just happens to appear in a work (or for series where the fourth installment was particularly bad), this is for when the trope is consciously addressed.



The four-in-hand knot is a method of tying a necktie. It is also known as a simple knot or schoolboy knot, due to its simplicity and style. Some reports state that carriage drivers tied their reins with a four-in-hand knot, while others claim that the carriage drivers wore their scarves in the manner of a four-in-hand, but the most likely etymology is that members of the Four-in-Hand Club in London began to wear the neckwear, making it fashionable. The knot produced by this method is on the narrow side, notably asymmetric, and appropriate for most, but not all occasions.[citation needed] For United States Army uniforms, and United States Navy uniforms that include a necktie, the four-in-hand knot is one of three prescribed options for tying the necktie, the other two being the half-Windsor and Windsor.[1][2]


In more utilitarian settings, the four-in-hand knot is known as the buntline hitch. It was used by sailors throughout the age of sail for the rigging of ships and remains a useful working knot today. Although topologically identical, when the knot is made in the manner used to fasten a flat necktie, it appears somewhat different from when tied in cylindrical cordage for load-bearing purposes.


A variant of the four-in-hand, with the long end of the tie passed back around and above the just-tied knot, was employed by Aristotle Onassis, who caused it to become briefly fashionable in some circles. Fink and Mao record this variant as Knot 2on; in shorthand notation, it is written Li Ro Li Co T Ri Co.



There are four main knots used to knot neckties. In rising order of difficulty, they are:


the four-in-hand knot. The four-in-hand knot may be the most common.

the Pratt knot (the Shelby knot)

the half-Windsor knot

the Windsor knot (also redundantly called the "full Windsor"). The Windsor knot is the thickest knot of the four, since its tying has the most steps.