Some of the Latest Creativity Research
Originally reported on the
now defunct Brainpower News Blog, here is some of the latest
creativity research, starting with the question: is anger good
for creative thinking?
Flickr photo by Allan Donque
Anger Good for Creativity?
Is anger good for creativity? Apparently not in the long run,
but it does seem to give a boost to people early on in the brainstorming
process according to a recent research paper.
As reported in an article in Scientific American;
This counterintuitive idea was pursued by researchers Matthijs
Baas, Carsten De Dreu, and Bernard Nijstad in a series of studies
recently published in The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
They found that angry people were more likely to be creative
though this advantage didnt last for long, as the
taxing nature of anger eventually leveled out creativity. This
study joins several recent lines of research exploring the relative
upside to anger the ways in which anger is not only less
harmful than typically assumed, but may even be helpful (though
perhaps in small doses).
In an initial study, the researchers found that feeling
angry was indeed associated with brainstorming in a more unstructured
manner, consistent with creative problem solving.
In a second study, the researchers first elicited anger from
the study participants (or sadness, or a non-emotional state)
and then asked them to engage in a brainstorming session in which
they generated ideas to preserve and improve the environment.
In the beginning of this task, angry participants generated more
ideas (by volume) and generated more original ideas (those thought
of by less than 1 percent or less of the other participants),
compared to the other sad or non-emotional participants. However,
this benefit was only present in the beginning of the task, and
eventually, the angry participants generated only as many ideas
as the other participants.
I suppose this is a good example of going where the evidence
leads. I would not have though that anger was at all useful to
the creative process, even in the short term. It seems that the
energy boost that sometimes comes from an angry state is part
of why there is increased creativity. But since the benefit is
short-lived and not even measurable over a longer time period,
I think I will stick to being at peace (to the extent that is
possible), and look for my energy and motivation elsewhere.
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Creativity Is Declining in the U.S.
Are we becoming less creative in the United States? You or
I may not be, but there is now evidence that today's children
are not as creative as previous generations. "Torrance's
test" of creativity has been used since 1958 to evaluate
the creative abilities of children, and although many psychologists
will point out that there is no perfect measurement of creativity,
these tests have been very predictive of future creative accomplishments.
Now researchers at the College of William & Mary have
found that scores are dropping, as reported by Po Bronson and
Ashley Merryman in a recent issue of Newsweek magazine. From
their article, titled, The
Like intelligence tests, Torrances testa 90-minute
series of discrete tasks, administered by a psychologisthas
been taken by millions worldwide in 50 languages. Yet there is
one crucial difference between IQ and CQ scores. With intelligence,
there is a phenomenon called the Flynn effecteach generation,
scores go up about 10 points. Enriched environments are making
kids smarter. With creativity, a reverse trend has just been
identified and is being reported for the first time here: American
creativity scores are falling.
Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William and Mary discovered
this in May, after analyzing almost 300,000 Torrance scores of
children and adults. Kim found creativity scores had been steadily
rising, just like IQ scores, until 1990. Since then, creativity
scores have consistently inched downward. Its very
clear, and the decrease is very significant, Kim says.
It is the scores of younger children in Americafrom kindergarten
through sixth gradefor whom the decline is "most serious."
Interestingly, while scores for creativity have been dropping,
the opposite is true of IQ scores. These have continued to rise
from generation to generation.