Yes, There IS a Creativity Crisis!

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Synopsis

Creativity has decreased in the Unites States since 1990. We must improve the creative climate to reverse the trend.

My research interest has focused primarily on Creativity, what it is, and how it is related to society, education, and other aspects of life including intelligence. In 2005, I conducted and published a meta-analysis study synthesizing studies that were published between 1965 and 2005 regarding the relationship between creativity and intelligence. My results show that there is a negligible relationship between the two, meaning that even without high IQ we can still be creative as long as we have the ability to master knowledge and skills in one specific domain.

Further, I wanted to know more about the relationship between creativity and intelligence regarding changes over time. The famous Flynn Effect had shown us that IQ had increased worldwide, so I was curious if there was a similar trend in creativity scores. If creativity and intelligence are the same thing, then creativity would have increased, too.

I used the scores from the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT)-Figural. The TTCT is a creativity test, not a divergent thinking test, and it has been translated to almost 40 different languages in the world. It is the most widely used and researched creativity test and the most reliable and valid creativity test among those currently available. It was developed in the 1950s by E. Paul Torrance, who is referred as “the Father of Creativity.” The TTCT has been updated six times since then. The scores measure creativity, and also how the test subject is creative, and identify strengths and weaknesses in creative thinking and creative attitudes.

My test sample included a total of 272,599 TTCT scores from Kindergartners though adults including: 3,150 from 1966; 19,111 from 1974; 37,814 from 1984; 88,355 from 1990; 54,151 from 1998; and 70,018 from 2008. These participants represent all regions of the United States over time.  I also used the scores of participants from Canada.

I analyzed the scores based on each element of creativity. Fluency scores show how many ideas the test subjects generated; Originality scores show how unusual those ideas are; Elaboration scores show how detailed the ideas are and how persistent the test subjects are in creative endeavors; Abstractness of Titles scores show how abstract and symbolic the ideas are and whether the test subjects exhibit the ability to synthesize information; Resistance to Premature Closure scores show how open-minded the subjects are in deferring judgment; and there are scores from the Checklist of 13 Creative Strengths, which show whether creative attitudes are exhibited.

The results of my study are published in the Creativity Research Journal in November 2011, after a rigorous peer-review process. Elaboration scores decreased the earliest, starting in 1984, which indicates that we are less able to elaborate ideas and think reflectively and that we are less persistent to be creative. Creativity is more than just coming up with an idea, and requires hard work, persistence, and endurance to produce a final product. Imagining a story is different than writing the story. There is no creativity without a final, useful product. Elaboration is one of those scores that should have increased, because some component of Elaboration generally correlates with IQ scores, which have been increasing.  Regardless of the increase in intelligence, Elaboration still decreased.  I, thus, conclude that the divergent component of Elaboration actually decreased even more than the gross scores indicate. 

Fluency scores decreased since 1990, indicating that we are less able to come up with ideas. The best way to come up with an original and unique idea is generating as many ideas as possible, and if we cannot generate a lot of ideas, then we are less likely to generate good ideas.

Originality scores also decreased since 1990, indicating that we are less able to generate unusual ideas. Originality is one of the most critical elements of creative thinking. I believe the decrease results from a climate that continues to grow less tolerant of creative expression. Everyone claims to love creativity, but very few of us understand what is really involved in creativity.  Psychologically, most of us are uncomfortable with the change, uncertainty, new ideas, challenges, and risk that accompany creativity and creative behavior. In order for thinkers to present original ideas, the climate needs to be receptive, or at least not hostile, to expression and consideration of unusual and wild ideas. The proponent of an original idea starts out as a “minority of one.” A creative climate respects original ideas for the possibilities they offer, and considers how new ideas may work, instead of dismissing ideas because of reasons they won’t work. The decrease in Originality scores is an indirect measure of growing social pressures toward conformity and status quo, and increasing intolerance for new ideas.

Resistance to Premature Closure and Abstractness of Titles scores decreased since 1998. I think that these two elements of creativity scores are inflated because they relate to IQ. During these decades of rising IQ scores, these measures have continued to diminish.  The decrease in Resistance to Premature Closure scores indicates that we are less able to defer judgment. Better solutions require keeping an open mind in order to take the time to understand the problem and to consider all of the potential solutions to the problem. Keeping an open mind about different people and what they have to offer broadens the scope of potential resources, which also leads to new and better solutions.  Accepting and celebrating diversity is one way to foster creative thinking because considering different points of view or putting seemingly different things together helps us with solving problems or inventing. Abstractness of Titles refers to thinking beyond the obvious solutions.  This is what allows some people to recognize and describe patterns and the essence of problems without distorting the information.

The scores from the Checklist of 13 Creative Strengths show creative attitudes are decreasing continuously since 1990.  We are becoming less verbally or emotionally expressive or sensitive and less empathetic, less responsive in a kinesthetic and auditory ways, less humorous, less imaginative, less able to visualize ideas, less able to see things from different angles, less unconventional, less able to connect seemingly irrelevant things together, less able to synthesize information, and less able to fantasize or be future-oriented. Creativity requires CAT: Creative Climate, Creative Attitude, and Creative Thinking.  Displaying Creative Attitudes requires an encouraging Creative Climate.  As the Climate becomes continually antagonistic to creative expression, Creative Attitudes will diminish, Creative Thinking will diminish, and creative potential will be lost. 

There are many creative success stories in the United States. However, people in general are becoming less able to think creatively, and they are less tolerant of creativity and of creative people. Especially, younger children are less able to think creatively.

Part of maintaining a healthy Creative Climate is avoiding addictive behaviors. Addiction is another factor that kills creativity, and addiction takes many forms.  Drugs, television, emails, Facebook and other websites, video games, newspapers, and other activities become addictions that distract from the achievement of creative products.  Each new technology offers potential for creative undertakings, but the achievements of the few creators lead to addictive behaviors of the masses.  The computer games, Minecraft boasts almost 34,000,000 registered players, and Warcraft boasts over 12,000,000 concurrent players.  Playing one of these games, if it is a new experience, could foster creative thinking; however, once that experience becomes an addiction, it hinders creativity. Players are known to stay up for marathon sessions lasting for days.  When engaged in this type of activity, “play” and “game” are misnomers, because the activity is compulsive and out of control, and interfering in display of Creative Attitude and in engaging in Creative Thinking.  While everyone should have the general freedom to spend their time as they choose, a healthy Creative Climate requires the public be educated about the effects of addictive behavior and its consequences. 

The Creativity Crisis is not an event, but an era of continued decline in most measures of creativity.  Reversing the trend will be a process that will require patience and perseverance, because the results will not be immediate.  Part of the barriers to creativity results from public demands for immediate and measurable solutions in education, business, and government. Even in this hostile climate, we need creative solutions presented to reverse the trend.  To increase the likelihood of this happening, there needs to be a forum with a Creative Climate, so that truly creative solutions can be suggested, considered, and implemented. 

The 2012 Torrance Lecture: The Creativity Crisis - Kyung Hee Kim

Tags: creative, creative thinking, creativity, education, intelligence, play, research, science, students, technology, thinking

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