How is creativity killed?

Creativity is discouraged when we let our feelings get in the way.

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chronic waste c2If teaching students to be creative is one of the highest goals of education, we have a problem. The United States as a nation is becoming less creative. Unfortunately, the scores on are getting lower on the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking. Initially after this test gained wide-spread acceptance in schools, scores rose. This is a normal result known as the Flynn effect, which also occurs on IQ tests. In fact, IQ test have to be normed repeatedly or else the general population scores slowly increase.

The scores for creativity increased in a fairly linear manner until the 1990’s. Then, the slump started. The biggest decrease in is the skill of elaboration–the ability to expand and add details to a creative concept.[1]

What caused this decline?  Increasing electronic communication has been blamed. According to Larry Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University , the constant checking of phone texts and…

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Time and creativity – friend or foe?

Does the pressure caused by time constraints help or hamper the creative process?

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burbn timeWhen working with Odyssey of the Mind teams practicing their problem-solving skills, I discovered an interesting aspect of creativity.  Students had to come up with a large of number of  creative ideas to solve a problem on the spot. However, not all students in a large group could participate in this competition, so we set up a way of scoring ideas as a fair way to choose the competitors. Each student was given the same problem scenario. Within a set time, they listed as many possible solutions as they could. I mistakenly thought that coming up with original ideas would require more time. Therefore, students were judged on two scores: the number of ideas and the originality of ideas. Actually there was a positive correlation between number of ideas and originality. Those students that still clung to the tried and true practical ideas came up with noticeably fewer solutions. These…

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Is creativity a right-brain function?

Old myths die hard…

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055 monitor_child copyThe idea of left brain and right brain thinking originated with the work of a number of physicians in the 1800s. Pierre Paul Broca, a French physician studied patients suffering from aphasia, inability to speak due to brain injuries. He pinpointed Broca’s area, a region on the front left side of the brain that functioned in the production speech. A few years later, Carl Wernicke uncovered another area on the back left side also responsible for language processing. Damage to Wernicke’s area would result in inability to comprehend language. Then, an area on the underside of the brain was found essential for recognizing people’s faces, and the scramble was on for mapping brain functions .[1] Enter pop psychology. Soon the task each hemisphere was suppose to perform were drawn down the lines of imagination versus logic. According to Carl Zimmer ” People were tagged as “right brains” if they could draw and “left…

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Creativity and social skills: a chicken and egg question

Why are artistic people sometimes difficult to get along with?

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Bass guitarist for Socials Kills Bass guitarist for Social Kills

Creative people are known for being  antisocial, hard to get along with, or just plain “crazy.”  Sometimes these epithets occur because these people have a tendency to do something causes much of the population to cringe–criticize authorities. When the criticism is leveled at the artsy crowd it sometimes seems to bounce off of their stubborn heads as if they didn’t care. But do they?

A recent study by Øyvind L. Martinsen, a professor at BI Norwegian Business School, describes seven characteristics that appear significantly more often in creative people. He compared the personality profiles of working actors, musicians, artists and marketing students to those working in  more mundane fields, and found that creative people “have a rebellious attitude due to a need to do things no one else does.” They also “have a tendency not to be very considerate, are obstinate and find faults and…

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The curse of creativity

When you get writer’s block, remember how envious other people are that you can actually write.

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DSCN6251C.jpgIt just isn’t fair. One person gets to be born with an enviable imagination, the ability to come up with new, innovative ideas, or create artistic masterpieces and the next person does not. Many cringe at the idea that creativity could be an innate and inheritable trait …. including those that have this trait.

Creative people often feel driven to be different, to strive for the original idea and take it as far as possible despite the deprivation and pain that results. They fear that inspiration may abandon them and leave them stranded, or the world may decide that the masterpiece into which they have pour blood, sweat and tears is useless and ugly. They may not see their ability as being  a fortunate circumstance. In fact, most of the evidence for innate creativity is based on the negatives associated with this trait.

First on the list of negatives is…

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Nowhere near practically perfect

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Early in my career at beginning of the 1980s, my boss gathered everyone in the office to watch a film on generational differences. When the polished speaker concluded the presentation, I noticed an interesting omission. Turning to one of my co-workers I commented, “There was a lot about people in their twenties, and those in their forties and fifties. But, the characteristics of people in their thirties was never really discussed.”

She smiled and quipped, “That’s because we’re practically perfect.”

Then, I realized the film was targeted towards thirty-somethings because they obviously were not practically perfect when it came to accepting differences in others. Descriptions of generational differences largely continue to be entrenched in biases based on the viewpoint of a specific age-group. Managers over fifty complain that younger workers don’t want to put in the long, hard hours necessary to advance. The smaller group in their forties describe how a poor economy has prevented them from advancing economically. Those in their thirties defend the need to job-hop in order to see any kind of upward progress while expounding on an expertise that occurred because they grew up with computers. The group in their twenties assert that are the true “techies,” while pointing out that the need for higher education has strapped them with college loans that earlier generations didn’t have to sweat about. It is hard to step back and look at the differences without taking sides.

In order to get a less biased look, I’ve read research based on two long-term surveys, that have sampling the behaviors, attitudes, and values of young people. The American Freshman Survey has been conducted among new college students since 1966 by the Higher Education Research Institute of UCLA. Monitoring the Future or the National High School Senior Survey from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research initially started as research on drug use. This research project has collected opinions of high school seniors since 1975.

There are some interesting trends that come to light from these studies. When people born from the late forties to 1964 were high school seniors and college freshman around 45% consider wealth a very important attribute. This attitude which has been increasing until it has risen to 75% among those born after 1984. The reason for attending college has also shifted with about the same. Although, the people in their late teens may not consider wealth as important as they do in mid-career or later, Millennials deemed it a driving goal at a younger age than prior generations. The idea of learning in order to develop a meaningful philosophy of life has decreased from 73% to 45%. In the early 1970s about 70% of students went to college to learn about life and improve themselves, by the turn of the century that same percentage were attending college as a way to become well off financially.

So why don’t these trends match so many of the articles on generational differences? The split in opinions about the generations is more of an in-group versus out-group comparison more than anything else. It is impossible to look at a group with differences from our own is as generous and accepting manner as we see the people that resemble us. We all forget that we ourselves are nowhere near “practically perfect.”

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Age and creativity

Are you too old to start writing that novel now?

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aged023The very act of creativity means producing results that don’t resemble those produced by others. There is no easy way to arrive at a number for creativity. Instead a group of people, respected in the particular field, must view and judge the entire body of work from an extensive the sample in order to rank individual works. This kind of assessment is not easy to perform.

For example, in a recent joint study by Harvard and University of Washington (Davis and Weinstein, 2013) the researchers compared samples of visual art and creative writing by teenagers published between 1990 and 2011 to determine if creativity was increasing or decreasing.  Their conclusion was improvement existed in visual work, which showed greater sophistication and complexity, and a decline in the writing, which became simpler and more mundane. Davis concluded that “there are markers of creativity — like complexity and risk-taking and breaking away from…

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Sci-fi delineated

With so many new science-fiction and fantasy titles, what do these labels really mean>

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sci-fi copyI, Robot is a collection of short stories that trace the development of robots until they take over running the world while humans remain blissfully ignorant of this fact.  In Perelandra, an earth man is sent to Venus  on a mission from God to counsel to the ‘Eve’ of that planet so she does not fall prey to the wiles of Satan’s agent. What does a work like Isaac Asimov’s, I, Robot  have in common with Perelandra by C.S. Lewis? Both are considered science fiction. That is the general classification for variety of seemingly disparate literature. What defines science fiction? Also what separates sci-fi from its twin, fantasy? It is a matter of time, travel, technology and transformation. These are the aspects that change the world in the book from the one we know.

Time: If a story takes place in the future, it is almost always considered science…

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Too bad to be true

When the utopia doesn’t work out as expected.

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17 smog 023cSir Thomas More, a scholar, lawyer and statesman published a novel in 1516 describing a perfect civilization. According to the book, this too real to be true society existed on an imaginary island that he dubbed Utopia.  Of course More was not the first to attempt to do this; he was actually heavily influenced by Plato‘s Republic, written over 18 centuries earlier. The utopian novel is an ancient idea.

The word More coined was used a few hundred years later by John Stuart Mill to create another new term, dystopia, a society too bad to be true. Dystopian literature is by no means new either. There are ancient texts that describe a future in which society is deeply flawed, and yet citizens continue to serve the powers that be, unaware of their enslavement. The creator of modern works in this vein is often credited to…

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Highly desirable?

A look at Utopias in fiction

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DSCN0762a wedding copyThere is a flood of dystopian novels compared to those that feature utopias because a society without problems has a tendency to be boring.  However, if you start reading The Republic by Plato, and you may discover that his ideal society has some pretty disturbing aspects.  The discourses that comprise The Republic supposedly record the discussions of the sage Socrates, who would eventually be executed for corrupting the youth. We really do not know how much Plato hid his own opinions behind the words that he claimed Socrates spoke.

The Republic proposes equal education for men and women, both physical and mental, so they could perform the same work. Then, he states what seems to follow logically. If men and woman are to have a status of equality, then marriage and the family must be abolished. The rulers will determine which people can mate and produce children. These children…

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