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Possibility Thinking

In collaboration with the Webster Centre for Creativity and Innovation and funded by Webster University, Geneva, this project aims to investigate how "wide" thinking can affect our creativity and overall outlook on life. 

Our engagement with the possible or with what is beyond the ‘here and now’ of our immediate action and perception has long been recognized as a distinctively human capacity (Overgaard, 2004; Zittoun & Gillespie, 2015; Glăveanu, 2020). The interest in how we become aware of and explore possibilities in our life has also been central to a variety of fields, e.g., from studies of creativity and innovation to imagination and serendipity, work on utopias and dystopias, anticipation and Futures Studies, counterfactual thinking and agency. Contributions from these areas of investigation, that span across disciplines, came recently to substantiate the new field of possibility studies (Glăveanu, 2021).


It is widely believed in this field that not only we have a propensity, as human beings, to think about ‘what is not yet here’ and ‘what could be’, in our daily existence, but also that we enter a particular state of mind whenever our focus moves from the actual to the possible. Lev Vygotsky (1976) famously said that, in play, a child acts ‘a head taller’ than herself, acknowledging the transformative power of pretending that things are not as they appear to be. Jack Martin and Alex Gillespie (2010), in discussing human agency, proposed that free will depends on our capacity to exchange positions and develop new perspectives on the world. Jerome Bruner (2009) recognized the human mind as one that builds and populates possible worlds, constantly creating meanings and significations that transcend the world as is. And yet, each one of these sociocultural thinkers acknowledged the unity between the actual and the possible and the fact that possibility thinking draws on, infuses and transforms the real.