April 2, 2012

Creativity Conundrum

Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution had a good post at Marginal Review last week on the conundrums of creativity:
Is Creativity more like IQ or Expertise? 
IQ, whatever its flaws, appears to be a general factor, that is, if you do well on one kind of IQ test you will tend to do well on another, quite different, kind of IQ test. IQ also correlates well with many and varied real world outcomes. But what about creativity? Is creativity general like IQ? Or is creativity more like expertise; a person can be an expert in one field, for example, but not in another. 
In a short piece in The Creativity Post, cognitive Psychologist Rober Baer argues that creativity is domain-specific: 
Efforts to assess creativity have been plagued by supposedly domain-general divergent-thinking tests like the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, although even Torrance knew they were measuring domain-specific skills. (He create two different versions of the test, one that used verbal tasks and another that used visual tasks. He found that scores on the two tests were unrelated —they had a correlation of just .06—so they could not be measuring a single skill or set of skills. They were—and still are—measuring two entirely different things.)

That's interesting that the Torrance Tests have such a low g factor for creative thinking. 

None of this is to say that there isn't such a thing as creativity or that it can't be measured, but that it's hard. And that means that when people say that IQ is overrated, that creativity is what counts, they are both right in one sense, but it's not as useful a sense as they think it is. It's not that hard to make predictions based on IQ, but it's harder to make predictions based on creativity. 

With creativity, for instance, a lot of things keep happening until they stop. The residents of Florence, for example, were the most creative people on Earth, until, after a while, they weren't. This lack of predictive power makes creativity fascinating but frustrating.

27 comments:

Ed said...

I think you mean "Marginal Revolution", not "Marginal Review".

I think when we actually get the definition and measurement of intelligence nailed down -it hasn't happened yet, though I know I'm going against 90% of this site's content with this claim- then we can start working on creativity.

Lucius said...

This reminds me of one of those walking-to-lunch interrogations of my Philosophy Chair, in my seventeen year-old salad days, in which I challenged, with guarded incredulity, something he said by asking, "Then you don't believe in, say, some sort of Divine Spark as the Stoics would have it, even?!" . . .

Of course we were talking about the soul and immortality, not creativity; as a dedicated Wagnerian, of course he'd believe in *that* kind of divine spark!

Julian Marias' "History of Philosophy" serves, inter alia, as a profound meditation on the vagaries even of metaphysical energies-- I mean, the energy to metaphysicize. His master, Ortega, was full of perspicacious musings on these waxings and wanings of the psyche.

If by "creativity" one means just thinking outside the box . . . but even then, how could one propose to maximize that in a population?

And if creativity has something to do with Beauty, well: perhaps best await the world's purgation by fire.

Since Trayvon, whatever fresh blazes his brief candle might have flickered to life with had it not been so rudely snuffed out, probably would not in any case have supplied my craving for neo-Brahmsian piano trios on afternoon NPR, this is all pretty academic.

But I hope that nasty word, "reductivism"--no no; with creativity this won't do. That way lies a graph showing how Picasso's "influence"-- even "greatness"--exceeds (!!!) Titian's . . . .

Anonymous said...

Implicit evidence for pathogens as the cause of most disease.

Lucius said...

Perusing the comments at the link, I was reminded of Alan Clark's talk of Hitler's use of the word "clever"; but when I looked it up, it was a bit different than I remembered.

What we would call "clever", Clark says, is what Hitler meant by "artistic"; and when Hitler praised someone as "clever" he meant something like "unscrupulous."

Yet for the STEMer who's steamed that Bruckner, Bach, and the lascivious liberal arts farts who are their neutrino-sized antimatter, get to hog all the cool words like "creative" while he has to pine away in presumptive abstinence on a measly six-digit salary, I might suggest:

Quite often, that surgeon who comes up with a new way to save lives? Well, likely enough he is, ah, "unscrupulous" . . .

[I recall the reconstructive plastic surgeon who pioneered just going through the back of the head, beneath the brain, to pull and prod at whatever was bothering the face from behind-- or it may have been a disciple instead who boasts--"and now, we do it with impunity!" Ah the comforts of medicine, to boast of venturing implements beneath the brain with "impunity"]

It's all a bit like Panzers in the Ardennes, really. Very "artistic."

Harry Baldwin said...

I've been hearing a lot about creativity on NPR lately, such as Terri Gross's interview with Jonah Lehrer, author of "Imagine: How Creativity Works." The CW seems to be that everyone is creative, some people just forget how to tap into it when they leave childhood. Unfortunately, that's bullshit.

I worked as "a creative" in advertising, where that's a noun, and our corporate clients were always trying to get creative by sponsoring outings where we'd all drive go-carts or have water balloon fights. Total charade. Most people just aren't creative in any meaningful sense, unless they expand the definition to include cooking a meal or playing a tune on the piano.

Wes said...

The residents of Florence, for example, were the most creative people on Earth, until, after a while, they weren't.

Yes, and just think of the Greeks flourishing and then falling. It is elusive, but a sane society would put a premium on understanding it.

Anonymous said...

Did someone say creativity?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9C_HReR_McQ

morleysafer said...

Don't know much about Clark and his view of old Adolf but if the word he used was "klug" then yes, I know from many hours of cartoon watching that it can connote craftiness or the ability to divine shortcuts.

I think this represents probably nothing unique about the German language.

morleysafer said...

For people who confuse the vague creative/Dionysian concept with the proximity of native intellect & blunt IQ see David Brooks's Bobos in Paradise where he records the regnant "funtivity" practices at corporations similar to Microsoft, e.g. having rolls of butcher paper on the walls and giving everyone colored Sharpies or crayons or whatever. He was describing this even before companies had come on the scene like Google, who worship Maurice Sendak as much as Robert Noyce and have elevated the man-child Montessori principle of organization past all parody

Anonymous said...

Though something of a side issue, creativity is related to freedom, and that means someone/something that is creative can also be destructive(since freedom can unleash anarchic forces). Creativity is dynamic and unstable. It brings forth new life or energy, but life has a life of its own. Creativity is organic while constructivity is mechanical. A machine is what it is, nothing more and nothing less. But man and animal have their own 'will'.
Though creation ADDS something to the world, that thing can be destructive. Rock music added something new to the world, but its forces instigated much social disorder. New attitudes and fashions have a way of attacking old attitudes and fashions.

To bring about social order, there had to be force, fear, and hierarchy. Thus, members of a community acted in accordance to the order.
But force and fear were not always most effective, and so there arose the power of values. Values created taboos. Thus, a person born into a community unquestioningly did and didn't do certain things. He carried on the tradition of what was right and what was wrong. This wasn't really a matter of thought but obedience, adherence, and loyalty.
Values were more powerful if linked with visions. Visions, especially the spiritual, rendered certain images, idols, and ideas as sacred. Thus, Jews had their sacred laws and truths, and other cultures had their own. These were generally not questioned and obeyed by all. Once in a while, a great prophet with a new vision might add something or bring forth something entirely new, but they were few and far between. And as such, social order was kept. Visions, though used for social order, were the product of creative minds, the sort of people to upset the pre-existing order, the Zarathustra of Nietzsche. One of the greatest challenges of man has been to harness this most anarchicly creative of energies and use it for social order.

Then came the triple whammy of reason, individualism, and freedom(liberty). Enlightened people thought old prejudices and taboos could be done away with. But there was great danger in ridding the world of them. It's like there are many parts of the body that seem of trivial, inessential, or evolutionarily outdated value. One is tempted to remove them and expect no negative effects. But if a part of the body is removed, the system starts going out of whack and unforeseen breakdowns start happening. I think this is the danger we are now seeing with the yobs in UK and blacks in the US. We thought we were getting rid of the bad old order and bringing forth a new free order by doing away with old taboos, hang-ups, and restrictions, but the removal of those parts of the social body has led to a social malfunction. Liberals thought freedom for blacks would naturally lead to blacks acting nice and succeeding. And British elites thought more freedom for the underclass would mean more equality and opportunity for all, but many underclass people took up punk culture and rap culture. And socialist policies led to a lot of lazy bums.

Anonymous said...

Of course, we cannot return to the past since social order in the past was made possible by suppressing certain freedoms and liberties. We want more freedom, more choices, more everything. But more freedom has led to excess of anarchic lunacy and crass populist stupidity, the bestialization of man and whore-ization of women.
How can we preserve the new freedom while maintaining social order and suppressing the unloosed forces of anarchy? Liberals think the answer is a system of neo-taboos that will regulate behavior, which is why liberals love to label and forbid certain things as 'noxious', 'toxic', 'odious', 'bilious', 'divisive', 'hateful', 'rabid', 'virulent', etc. So, if in the past, interracism was taboo, now anti-interracism is taboo. Liberals have realized that freedom/liberty is not enough. There needs to be systems of control to maintain social order. NYers especially found out with the crime epidemic in the 60s, 70s, and 80s that freedom isn't enough. People, especially the lower orders, need to be controlled. Since the old way of Bull Connors or hamfisted Irish cops were no longer possible, NYers relied on Giuliani to institute a technocratic way of controlling the streets and cleaning away some of the excessive porny and wild aspects of city life.
But the problem of liberal taboos is they are aimed mostly at white people who do behave--at least more than blacks. Most new taboos are aimed to shame and control whites than blacks. Just look at the Trayvon Martin case. The main culprit that is being shamed and taboo-ized is white profiling of blacks as criminals. But will blacks be shamed for their culture of thuggery and criminality? Will Jews be shamed for their culture of finance robbery and Hollywood/porn filth? Liberal PC taboos will not work because they shame the most law-abiding people in America(white folks) while refusing to shame the most troublesome peoples in America: blacks, Jews, illegals, and gays. (Blacks are now being shamed only in relation to 'hatred' toward gays. To be sure, blacks have been shamed for Jew-baiting as well. Liberal media don't mind guys like Sharpton and Farrakhan attacking whites, even with murderous viciousness. Liberal media ONLY care when black demagogues attack gays and Jews.)

Anonymous said...

Anyway, if seemingly trivial parts of the body have been removed and if this led to the gradual and serious malfunctioning of the body, the removed(and dead) parts cannot be put back again. Then, the person must be kept healthy/alive with medicine and artificial means.
Similarly, we have disposed of traditional social controls and they cannot be restored again. So, there are all manners of social engineering and technological means to maintain social order. Thus, UK has more codes/regulations and more surveillance cameras. But can the artificial be as powerful and deep as the organic?
Liberals wanted freedom, reason, and individualism. Freedom meant equal freedom for gays and straights, whites and blacks, men and women. But the problem is there are differences among groups, and so their freedom plays out differently. Men commit more crime than women, blacks commit more crime than whites, women who get high-paying jobs take away opportunities for men to lead/feed a household. As for reason, it has challenged religion and old taboos and established what is factually/scientifically true over received dogma and 'wisdom'. As science it was good, but as social science, troublesome because for many people, the death of God meant not so much knowledge and truth but neo-pagan wantonness and excess. Since most people are not very smart, the death of religion(and its related taboos) turned them into beasts and thugs than into Einsteins. Thus, even People of Reason are now seeing the value of religion or spiritual(ized) taboos, which is why PC erects new icons like holy MLK and Mandela(which will be counterproductive in the long run since such mislead white people into trusting blacks, inherently the most dangerous race in the world).
Liberals today are seriously schizo. They know their ideas have created lots of social mess, but they believe in their accomplishments in the name of social, sexual, and racial equality/rights/freedom. And in order to achieve this, they had to mock, subvert, undermine, and destroy so much that was old and 'archaic'. But now, we are seeing that all those 'prejudicial' attitudes and assumptions weren't entirely without value. They had a way of controlling and guiding social behavior. Since they were associated with white power and privilege, they were dispensed with, but it's like liberals threw out the baby with the bathwater. If most people were intelligent, responsible, and knowlegeable, then the new system based on freedom, individualism, and reason could work. But in fact, most people are not all that smart and not all that responsible. As Charles Murray has said in his new book, the social revolution of the 60s didn't do much for Fishtowners. Even before the challenges of immigration and outsourcing of jobs, a serious decay of social and moral values were underway in Fishtowns all over America. If for snobs, the new freedom meant opening up to new experiences, the new freedom for the slobs meant being even more slobby than they already were(and without any shame).

Anonymous said...

Liberals called for the new order of open freedom, but it has lots of problems, and so liberals are now pushing for ever new rules on controlling our thoughts and behavior. This is hypocritical and contradictory, but there's a paradoxical logic to it since all sensible people have known for a long long time that social freedom can only exist in the context of personal responsibility and rule of law. But since liberals are not much into personal responsibility and rule of law(at least in the traditional sense), they seem to think that people should be 'rationally' controlled by indoctrination and statist policies. The problem is what goes by the name of 'rationalism' isn't really rational or factual--such as 'race is just a social construct'--, and the new laws that liberals keep coming up with tend to undermine social order. Take 'gay marriage' laws. Liberals seem to think more laws protecting/promoting gays will control unruly 'homophobic' behavior, but such degradation of values to flatter gays will corrupt society as a whole, and then there will be more social violence all around. When 'gay marriage' is made the equal of real marriage, there are no meaningful values anymore. And all the laws that promote women over men will lead to the demoralization of men, and when society has an excess of men without pride and direction, that is likely to lead to more violence in the long run.

Anonymous said...

Florentines are Italians, and Italians have continued to be creative in fashion, design, music, and film in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Anonymous said...

"The CW seems to be that everyone is creative, some people just forget how to tap into it when they leave childhood. Unfortunately, that's bullshit."

Well, everyone is creative but few are remarkably creative.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, and just think of the Greeks flourishing and then falling. It is elusive, but a sane society would put a premium on understanding it."

Paradoxically, I think great creativity can undermine creativity in the future. When there isn't much to look backward to, you have to look forward, and in looking forward, you become creative and imaginative.
But as a culture/society creates a lot of great things, it accumulates a library of great works. These can inspire some people to do even greater stuff, but it can also have a demoralizing effect. It's like the child of a great man rarely does anything as great. The child lives in the shadow of his father, the giant. As greater and greater works are produced, it becomes ever more difficult for newer artists to do anything groundbreaking.

This giant shadow effect may have affected the Greeks. Just how do you top Sophocles and such folks?

There may also be a sense of collective pride that makes members of the community believe that they've achieved all that's worth achieving, and then stasis may settle in. Egyptians were tremendously creative in the early part of their history, but they were so awed by their own achievements in religion, art, architecture, and etc that they were convinced that they were the best, they'd reached the peak of what can be achieved by man, and so they settled into the mode of static permanence. Same might be said of China and Japan. At some point, they became so proud of their achievements that they thought they had everything they needed and there was no sense in achieving more. This also seems to be the case with George Lucas. As a young man, he came up with the idea of STAR WARS that made him rich and famous. Though he was a man of many ideas and ambitions in his youth, it's like STAR WARS became his entire life and he can't really think or dream beyond it.

Also, critics follow creativity. Artists create but critics/scholars formulate theories as to what is artistically correct and incorrect, and these rules can become dogmatic and have a way of undermining further originality and creativity. When critics and such gain too much power--and especially serve as the teachers of what is correct form of art--, they can end up stifling creativity.

Creativity needs but mustn't be burdened by the past. All creative people were inspired by works of predecessors and past greats, but they mustn't slavishly feel that ALL GREAT THINGS HAVE BEEN ACHIEVED AND MAN'S ROLE IN LIFE IS TO CATALOG THE GREAT WORKS OF THE PAST. This conservative attitude is one reason why even cultured conservatives tend to be uncreative. They tend to look back than forward and lack the visionary impulse(for visionariness implies that something boldly new can supersede and even bury the past, which is anathema to a conservative).

It's been said that the great thing about Americans is they have this uncanny ability to reinvent themselves. A relatively young nation with diverse newcomers from all over the world--and filled with youthful spirit that almost verges on amnesia--, Americans tend to be less anchored to the past than other peoples. Americans are creative even in their national identity. Americans are held in contempt for their immaturity and infantilism, but such qualities have also given birth to some of the most infectiously popular products and expressions around the world, ranging from coca cola to rock music to rap to Hollywood, etc.

Catperson said...


Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution had a good post at Marginal Review last week on the conundrums of creativity:Is Creativity more like IQ or Expertise? IQ, whatever its flaws, appears to be a general factor, that is, if you do well on one kind of IQ test you will tend to do well on another, quite different, kind of IQ test.



But wouldn't a creativity test actually be quite a different kind of IQ test itself? What qualifies a mental ability test as an IQ test? The fact that it correlates with other IQ tests? If so, the reasoning here is circular.




g by definition is the factor common to ALL mental abilities. So if creativity tests don't correlate with traditional mental tests like IQ, or don't correlate with one another, then there is no g. Either that or creativity is not a mental ability. And if it's not a mental ability, what is it? A personality trait? By what objective criteria do we make the distinction?

IQ also correlates well with many and varied real world outcomes.


Like creative genius?

dearieme said...

Everyone should read Jim Watson's The Double Helix. At one point he and Crick were entertaining the possibility that the structure of DNA was either a double helix or a treble helix. The reader will feel like shouting at them "there are two sexes, you pillocks". But those two very able chaps missed the point for months. I don't know what it proves except fallibility, but it's pretty striking.

David said...

Florence was full of cash at the time, then it went bust. This may be relevant to the whole question of creativity. All the big creative achievements in the modern era seem to have come in times of surplus. The classical composers were supported by princes; ballet grew out of royal court life; the space program and the proto-internet belong to the post-WW2 boom, etc., etc.

Not saying you can make any individual creative by throwing money at him, but if a lot of money is being thrown around, innovators and geniuses pop to the surface along with much else.

Harry Baldwin said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Well, everyone is creative but few are remarkably creative.


Good point. Everyone regularly solves problems and does things that can be described as creative, but to make a living at it requires that you can consistently come up with good creative ideas on demand.

Justin said...

Creative = high IQ + non-conformist personality.

It is that simple.

A lot of high IQ people are not creative because they are conformist.

A lot of non-conformists are not creative because they aren't high IQ.

Put 'em both together, you've got a creative genius.

Mainly, creative geniuses just get ignored.

Steve Sailer said...

The main message I got from reading The Double Helix in high school was that Crick and Watson weren't working all that hard, taking long breaks for several sets of tennis in the middle of the day, and so forth.

Catperson said...

Creative = high IQ + non-conformist personality.

There's also this theory:

Creativity = high IQ + low latent inhibition

Schizophrenia = low IQ + low latent inhibition

http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/19acqe/:jUupIUG3:1vyubJ2O@/www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2003/10.23/01-creativity.html/

Svigor said...

Increasingly, when iSteve-ers start talking about paradoxes, I reach for my revolver. But, paradoxically, I don't own a gun.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the clearly written and insightful long comment, Anonymous 9:32/9:33.

Steve Sailer has some impressive readers.

Claverhouse said...

morleysafer said...

Don't know much about Clark and his view of old Adolf but if the word he used was "klug" then yes, I know from many hours of cartoon watching that it can connote craftiness or the ability to divine shortcuts.

I think this represents probably nothing unique about the German language


Prolly not: the great Esme Wingfield-Stratford remarked of the ghastly John Hampden that he was slim; back then it was an uncomplimentary Boer word meaning cunning little sod.

morleysafer said...

As a teen I found the warm/heiss/schwuel distinction to be the most amusing landmine befalling the native English speakers