Creativity and social skills: a chicken and egg question

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 flaws in ideas and people.” Marketing students had personality profiles similar to that of the artists, but the artists showed less ambition. The performers (actors and musicians) were the most sociable group, and also the most narcissistic.[1]

A number of other research studies have similar findings. E.P. Torrance, well known for developing tests to measure creative thinking, uncovered the fact that even more creative children tend to have anti-authoritarian ideas and will challenge their teachers more frequently than their conventional peers.[2]

Researchers using the Five Factor Personality model as a basis to study creative students and adults reflect what both Torrance and Martinsen found. Among the population producing original work there is a strong positive relationship with openness to experience, and an inverse (negative) relationship between agreeableness and creativity.  [3]

Martinsen attributed the rebellious attitude as part of the need to be original. Creative people resist imitating others. So if imitation is flattery, what is the refusal to imitate? Often people react as if that individual doesn’t see what they do or say as good enough. They tend to reject those that reject what they have done. Aloofness and secretiveness may be the artists response to this rejection., as it does help. The anti-social and obstinate behavior could very well be a protection for those heading down an unconventional road. So which came first, creativity or anti-social tendencies?


[1] BI Norwegian Business School (2013, April 2). The hunt for the creative individual. Science Daily. Retrieved January 11, 2014, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­/releases/2013/04/130402091133.htm
[2] Torrance, E.P. & Khatena, J. (1970) What Kind of Person Are You? A brief screening device for identifying creatively gifted adolescents and adults. Gifted Child Quarterly, 14, 71-75
[3] King, L.A. Walker, L.M. Broyles, S.J. Creativity and the Five-Factor Model. Journal of Research in Personality, Volume 30, Issue 2, Pages 189-203 (2013)
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One Response to Creativity and social skills: a chicken and egg question

  1. knlistman says:

    Reblogged this on Write about what? and commented:

    Why are artistic people sometimes difficult to get along with?

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