Remembering Colin Martindale

A great creative mind has passed away.

Posted Nov 19, 2008

This past Sunday afternoon, November 16th, 2008, the world lost Colin Martindale: a great creativity researcher and a wildly creative, funny, insightful, personable, and inspiring character (see bio below).  My first interaction with Colin was quite a memorable experience and played a large role in the development of my career. In 2002, as an undergraduate, I was on my way to attend my first ever conference. The topic was the Cognitive Science of Music, and it was to take place in Liège, Belgium. My friend Jonna Kwiatkowski just found out that she couldn't attend, but she said I should hang out with her postgraduate advisor Colin Martindale. She thought we'd get along. From the minute I met the guy, I liked him. Colin sure knew how to keep it real. At one point in the middle of a keynote talk, he stood up, pulled a cigarette out of his pocket, and whispered in my ear (although I use the word 'whisper' in the most charitable sense), "This talk sucks. I'm going outside to catch a smoke."Ever since, I read Colin's work with great interest, especially his work on the importance of cognitive disinhibition for creative thought. If anyone possessed a creative mind, it was Colin Martindale. Colin has touched the lives of many people, and his passing at the age of 65 has shocked many. Below I post a few reactions and remembrances from his last two PhD students Jonna Kwiatkowski and Oshin Vartanian as well as from his extended family in the Society for the Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts (Division 10, American Psychological Association).   Since Colin won't be having an funeral, I hope that over the ensuing days, months, and years, people will add their recollections of Colin to this post in the comments section.  R.I.P. Colin Martindale (1943-2008). --- From Oshin Vartanian:When I arrived at the doorsteps of Colin's lab as a graduate student, little did I know that I was about to embark on the most formative years of my development as a psychologist. However, the true sign of a great supervisor isn't limited to the guidance that one receives when still under his tutelage, but the generosity with which help is offered long after one has left the lab. Colin was an exceptional supervisor in both respects. Colin's mind functioned as a tremendous litmus test for distinguishing good from bad science, an ability that contributed to his deep distaste for fads. He frequently lamented the fact that scientific findings in the nineteenth century could no longer be referred to as "recent", given that in the bigger picture that is precisely what they were. For all those familiar with Colin's political orientation, I could not help but ask about his state of mind one day after Obama's victory. As usual, a simple inquiry turned into a lengthy correspondence in the course of which he elucidated the machination of the country's entire political system for me. One wouldn't expect any less from him. I will miss Colin tremendously, first and foremost as a dear friend. He is truly irreplaceable. --- From Jonna Kwiatkowski: Colin loved the old mainframe printouts for statistics. Even when PC versions of analysis were widely available, he insisted on sending his work to the "big room," and of course sending me, his grad student, over to pick it up. I never minded though because it meant that we were going to spend the afternoon pouring over the output, with him providing his interpretation. Cigarette in his mouth, his 19th century antique ringed fingers would glide over the green and white striped pages - "See this - this is what we were looking for!" I learned more in those afternoons than in any class or job I've ever taken. Colin had a fine, deep, and passionate understanding of creativity and aesthetics - that I was fortunate enough to experience even a small part of his scholarship is one of the great gifts of my life. --- From James C. Kaufman: One of my fondest memories of Colin was at my first presentation at APA - it was me, another grad student, and three big names - Simonton, Rothenberg, and Martindale. Colin was funny as hell, and then ducked out early to smoke before popping back in to answer q's. He was irreverent, as his list-serv contributions attest to. I invited him to write the "History of Creativity" chapter for the Cambridge Handbook of Creativity because I couldn't think of who else could pull it off. He was excited about doing it, and I couldn't wait to read his take on everything. He treated me with tremendous respect and I always appreciated that. ---From Paul Locher:I was away from my e-mail messages for several days and was very shocked and saddened to learn of Colin's passing when I logged on. Colin and I were working on an upcoming special issue of Empirical Studies of the Arts (ESA) via e-mail as recently as three weeks ago. He wrote a paper entitled "The Evolution and End of Art as Hegelian Tragedy" for the Journal. In it Colin argues and presents evidence "showing that poetry is on the verge of extinction and that classical music, painting, and sculpture are already extinct. Art has come to its predestined end"(manuscript Abstract). Both reviewers of the manuscript found the paper to be brilliant and witty, two of Colin's many gifts mentioned by most of you in your tributes to him, and suggested that a special issue of the Journal be developed using Colin's paper as a target article. Colin liked the idea very much, as did I, and so I invited several well-known scholars from our Division and from other fields to offer their responses to Colin's paper in the form of commentaries. Colin had just finished reading all of the commentaries and was in the process of writing his reply to them for inclusion in the special issue. Unfortunately we will never have his reactions to the commentaries, which he was eager to "take on" in a reply. This special issue of ESA will be published as Volume 27, number 2 in 2009, appearing in August. As one tribute to Colin I will ask the publisher to make the entire special issue available electronically either on the publisher's web site or on the web site of the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics. I'll send a message to the Division with specific information when the special issue is published. On a personal level, I am very grateful to have had Colin as a friend. He has helped me enormously with advice concerning issues related to Division 10, IAEA, and ESA. As others have noted, Colin's advice always came with very amusing commentary. He will surely be missed by all of us. ---From Jonathan Plucker: I will always be grateful for Colin's support, both personal and professional. When I started as an assistant professor at the Univ. of Maine, I was surprised how hard it was to get to know people. People weren't unfriendly, then just kept to themselves and their small circles of friends, and new people were definitely "outsiders." But when Colin heard I was on campus, he immediately reached out to me and was happy to sit and chat about life, creativity, research, and lots of other topics. He convinced me that I could do the "professor thing," and his support and encouragement meant a lot to me. A few years later, after I had moved on to another university, Colin called me at home very late one night. The conversation went something like this: "Hey, it's Colin. I'm chairing the Division 10 Elections Committee. We think you should run for such-and-such position. Whaddya think?" Me: "Ummm ..." Colin: "I'm going to take that as a yes, because I want to vote for you. You'll do a great job. Good luck!" Click. That was the start of my serious involvement with the Division, which has been very rewarding for me, again both personally and professionally, for many years now. My final memory of Colin, other than his great e-mails - which never failed to amuse and provoke - was at an APA conference a few years back. Colin walked into a meeting in a bright yellow suit and crazy tie, with his hair all permed out. I asked him how his retirement was going, and he looked me right in the eye, cracked a huge smile, and said, "It's woooonnnnnnderrrrfulll!" He was a character, a bon vivant, a first-rate scholar, and a funny, warm-hearted colleague. I owe him a lot, and I will miss him a great deal.-- From Christopher Ramey: I wanted to send along a few passages from emails he sent my way while I was a graduate student. I kept them because I thought they were quite funny--something I don't think he could help--and they demonstrated to me that out there somewhere were faculty that were warm, cordial, and encouraging of the young in the field. He did this even though we never met in person.======================
[from Martindale, I think on the Div10 listserv] APA should be working against the increasing stupidity of IRBs. The law was miswritten and is literally killing people with its red tape that stiffles research. If one does innocuous research, it can be great fun to torment an IRB. A few years ago, I was doing some studies on random polygons. As required by the stupid law, I dutifully asked for permission for one after another study. Chair of the IRB finally called and told me that I could show people any polygon I wanted, but just stop bothering them. To be sure 
I was in compliance, I asked about showing more than one polygon at the same time. Reply - with many expletives deleted - was that was perfectly fine. When I asked about getting ratings of paintings, it was easier even though I warned them that visual stimulation is inevitably followed by death at some point. That approval was almost instantaneous: show the Ss anything I wanted. 
Sorry, [XXXX], but my advice is to torment your local IRB. It's fun.
Colin[to me] Christopher,
Good luck on killing your IRB with over-compliance. I'm sure that the research you... do is as innocuous as mine. I didn't want to put part
2 of the strategy on the listserve: become more vague over time. In the case of paintings, I started off with very specific descriptions such as '17th century Italian paintings containing people, some of whom may be partially nude but all of which are universally recognized works of art'. By the time the IRB gave up, I think I was down to 'pictures' or maybe even 'visual stimuli'. Of course the last is anything from a Hustler centerfold thru a patch of color to a word.
Colin---From Ruth Richards:Dear Colin--How I wish I'd known you better, especially after hearing others' tributes. I knew you a little, I liked you a lot, and you influenced me a lot, too. You were always out there, bringing ideas together. Others will have other memories, but I especially appreciate your initiative with what became the PACA journal. I remember the hard work on that Bulletin issue on creativity and mental health issues. I also very much appreciate your range of thought on creativity overall, and on the psychobiological bases of creativity, in particular. Among other things, you very much helped me see that creativity involves what some could call altered states of consciousness, a theme that was picked up in the creativity book I recently edited. We are not just talking about ordinary mind doing some higher jumps with the usual intellectual programs. There are whole new reconfigurations of the CNS, that link to defocused attention, associational thought and rich mental representations. I thank you so much for this, Colin. In addition, I think of how you said, in Sternberg's (1999) edited Handbook of Creativity, that creativity is remarkable because it involves, simultaneously, so many different qualities that are not always found together-including "intelligence, perseverance, unconventionality, the ability to think in a certain manner." You, Colin, certainly brought together all of this and more. We, and I, will miss you, very much. Ruth Richards ---From Sandra Russ: Colin was an original and wonderful person. I didn't know him very well, but loved spending time with him and e-mailing him. One of the great pleasures of my time on the Executive Committee was receiving Colin's e-mails. He was very invested in Division 10 and really helped it develop through some difficult times. His comments about the history of the division in a recent PACA issue was true. He has made so many contributions to the field of creativity and the people in it- an APA event is important to hold. . He was brave and generous and I will miss him.---From Judith  Schlesinger:In June, Colin and I were discussing the validity of the mad creative notion, and he was very encouraging about the article I was writing (it will appear in February's PACA as "Creative Mythconceptions: A closer look at the evidence for the ‘mad genius' hypothesis"). Colin had a rare knack for getting to the heart of things succinctly, and with a minimum of psychobabble. Here's some of what he wrote (in the large type he used as his eyes got worse):Anyway, there are a lot of similarities between creative people and insane people. But similarity does not mean identity. I think the best approach is to admit the similarities and point out that they don'e mean identities.  They might show slightly higher rates of some mental disorder. That remains to be seen. They clearly don't show the extremely high rates claimed by Jamison et al.Creative people often have very interesting personalities, whereas extremely uncreative, conforming people do not. From the perspective of the latter, a lot of creative people are going to appear strange, abnormal, different. They may say that they are abnormal enough to be called psychopathological. I think this is the basis of the whole problem. Do we want to say that a lot of creative people are sick, different, or interesting?This last sentence not only summed up the dilemma, but acknowledged a critical factor that is too often overlooked: the role of researchers' agendas in shaping the public's view of creativity. I'm glad I got to share my article with him, but will forever miss his brilliance and perspective.---From Pamela Joyce Shapiro:There is a 2001 Colin Martindale rating on that rings true: "Kind of hard to follow, funny as hell, genius." This was my experience of Colin (though in reverse order). I first encountered his written work--thoughtful, expansive, inspiring, and ahead of its time-genius. I then had the pleasure of meeting him through email correspondence about the 2000 Creativity and Psychopathology issue of the Bulletin and subsequently joined Division 10 and this listserv. His wit and word play delighted all-"funny as hell". In 2002, I met Colin at APA and attended his talk. I found myself grasping only fragments of his paper, but feeling there was something new and important to be learned-"kind of hard to follow." There was a sense that there was more going on his mind than could be expressed in linear conversation. I would add to his ratings "creative," a term we all struggle to define and apply, but are 
sometimes fortunate enough to recognize in others-in Colin.  ---From Paul Silvia:It's sad to hear about Colin. He made major contributions to creativity and to aesthetics, a rare thing in our field. I met him only once, during a visit in 2005 to U Maine, but he said something to me that stuck. I had mentioned to him that my first-and-only paper related to aesthetics was accepted by Empirical Studies of the Arts, and he said "Keep at it. It's a small field, so anyone who does good work can zoom right to the top." It was a generous thing to say to someone who had yet to publish anything on aesthetics. I'm going to re-read The Clockwork Muse, my favorite of Colin's books, this week. It's brilliant, contrary, and irascible, much like its author.  ---From Dean Simonton:And let us not forget Colin's major contributions beyond the confines of APA. I'm thinking especially of the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics. I know of nobody since Berlyne who has done more to make the scientific study of the arts a truly international affair. 
---From Jerome L. Singer:I have known Colin for almost four decades. So many have written 
fine statements that I have little to add. His creative methodological contributions to studying the qualities of poets and fiction writers is a firm part of psychology's history. I would like to mention his most recent role in editing the Division 10 Bulletin prior to our new APA journal. On a miniscule budget he and a few helpers produced a remarkable series of issues that were not only great to read but aesthetically beautiful.I hope some of you who knew him well can organize a tribute for our next APA Convention. Sadly but also appreciative of Colin's lasting memory.---From Lisa and Jeff Smith:Our sympathy goes out to Colin's family and friends. We have lost one of the great contributors to our field. We will always remember the first time we met Colin, in 1998, and the wonderful and witty emails we exchanged in the years afterward. We'll always be grateful to Colin for trusting The Bulletin to us and for his delight as it became PACA.--- BioColin Martindale, Ph.D., was an important contributor to the study of creativity and aesthetics, but also made contributions to psycholinguistics, computerized content analysis, author attribution, psychoanalytic theory, statistical method, personality, abnormal psychology, interpersonal attraction, and oligonucleotide frequencies in DNA. He received his B.A. summa cum laude from the University of Colorado in 1964 and his Ph.D. in clinical psychology in 1970 from Harvard University. He was awarded a Doctorat Homoris Causa from the Université Catholique de Louvain. He was professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Maine, Honorary Professor of Psychology and Art at the Perm State Institute of Arts and Culture in Perm, and an academician at the International Informatization Academy in Moscow. Earlier in his career, he was acting director of clinical training at the University of Maine and a Visiting Scientist at the Nijmegen Institute for Cognition Research and Information Technology at the University of Nijmegen. He was the author, editor, or co-editor of 14 convention proceedings, journal special issues, and books, including "The Clockwork Muse". He authored over 185 articles, chapters and reviews. He gave around 195 papers, invited addresses and colloquia worldwide. He served as editor of Empirical Studies of the Arts, APA Div. 10's Bulletin of Psychology and the Arts, and co-editor of Baywood Publishing Company's "Foundations and Frontiers of Aesthetics" series. He served on the editorial boards of Poetics, The Creativity Research Journal, The Journal of Creative Behavior, The Journal of Mind and Behavior, and John Benjamin Publishing Company's "Linguistic Approaches to Literature" book series. Among his honors and awards are the First Prize in the Ninth Annual Creative Talent Awards Program of the American Institutes for Research for his Ph.D. dissertation, the American Association for the Advancement of Science Sociopsychological Prize, The Gustav Theodor Fechner Award for Outstanding Contributions to Psychology and the Arts from the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics, the Rudolf Arnheim Award for Outstanding Contributions to Psychology and the Arts and the Paul M. Farnsworth Award for Outstanding Service, both for APA's Div. 10. Martindale served as APA Division 10 president and as president of the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics. ---I thank Jonna Kwiatkowski and Oshin Vartanian for writing Colin's Bio, and I thank Oshin for providing me with this nice picture of Colin.

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