School of Psychology


Human creativity and culture

L-R: Carol Steen, Professor Ernest Edmonds, Dr Mark Lythgoe and Professor Chris Frith.

What do we mean by creativity and can machines be creative? Does creativity depend on conscious processes? Does seeing the world differently lead to new creative insights?

These were some of the questions being discussed at the fifth Sussex Conversation - on Mind and Brain - which took place at the Royal Institution on Thursday (26 April).

The wide-ranging conversation explored creativity and human identity; examined the creativity of people affected by mental illness, neurological disease and unusual experiences; and asked what we can know of the brain mechanisms that produce creative behaviour.

Chaired by Dr Mark Lythgoe, Director of the Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging at University College London, the panel comprised

  • Professor Ernest Edmonds a multi-disciplinary artist and Professor of Computation and Creative Media at the University of Technology in Sydney;
  • Professor Chris Frith, Emeritus Professor in Neuropsychology at University College London;
  • and Carol Steen, a world-renowned artist and synaesthete from New York.

From Sussex, the respondents in the discussion were

  • Professor Maggie Boden, Research Professor of Cognitive Science, who helped develop the world's first academic programme in AI and cognitive science;
  • Dr Anil Seth, Reader in Informatics and Co-Director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness;
  • and Dr Jamie Ward, Reader in Psychology and one of the world’s leading experts in synaesthesia.

A full house at the Royal Institution joined in the debate, with questions and comments from those present as well as via Twitter from those watching online.

As before, the conversation was filmed by a team of Sussex multi-media students, supervised by Dr Phil Watten, from Informatics, and broadcast live on the Sussex web.

The recording will be available shortly to watch again along with the previous four events at

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Farthing, introduced the conversation. He said: “This was yet again another great discussion, bringing Sussex academics together with leading thinkers from elsewhere and allowing a stimulating debate to range across disciplinary areas, bringing new insights and understanding.

“The fact we could share this with audiences both on the day, and for the future via the web, is part of building the Sussex legacy from our 50th anniversary.”

The sixth Sussex Conversation - on digital media technologies and their cultural, social and political impacts - is being held on Thursday 24 May. Further information is at

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Posted on behalf of: University of Sussex
Last updated: Tuesday, 1 May 2012