Is creativity different in men and women ?

lolly 2012 (3) c_edited-2 Yearn to be recognized for creative achievement? Over forty? You may be too late – unless you are female.  Lehman (1953) found this kind of achievement was like a bell curve with relation to age.  Creative production in a variety of fields – mathematics to medicine, psychology and physics – increased until age 30 -39 and then hit a decline.[1] Simonton (1989) found the same to be true among composers and musicians and referred to it as the “swan song phenomenon.”  Later works by noted composers were considered less original even though they were often more popular with the audiences.[2] However, these studies used predominantly male populations for data.

Geoffrey Miller (1999) found that the peak age of creative output for most writers, painters and musicians was in their thirties and forties. However, Miller took his studies of  bit further due to interest in cultural displays rather than creativity. Most of the earlier findings were based on populations that were primarily or exclusively male. Miller determined that female authors produced more work later; his research showed them to be slightly more productive in their fifties.[3]

With many studies of creative characteristics based on male populations, the question arises “Is there a difference between male and female creativity?”

Sally Reis (1998) has pointed out that the male concept of the creative process has been accepted as the standard. However, this standard may only apply to male creators. She found that creative women are frequently perfectionists. They attempt to expend maximum energy at all times; they try to do everything and do it well.[4] This is in contrast to the more focused aim at specific achievement pursued by males.

Reis’ later study of creative female mathematicians found that they varied slightly on measures of intelligence and cognition compare to males. They tended to show “rebellious independence, introversion, and a rejection of outside influences.” In their mathematical  research activity and general attitudes they were highly flexible and original, and less likely to accept outside influence than male peers.

Gruber (1985) referred to a tendency of highly creative women to value relationships as much or more than their work as “moral giftedness.”[6] During interviews these women explained that they often felt that they had no choice. Their drive to contribute was strong as their belief in their ability to do so. Some of them simply said, “Something inside of me had to come out.”[5]

[1] Lehman, H. (1953) Age and Achievement, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
[2] Simonton, D. K. (1989). The swan-song phenomenon: Last-work effects for 172 classical composers. Psychology and Aging,4,42-47
[3] Eds. Garibaldi, P. Joaquim Oliveira Martins, J.O., van Ours, J. The Grand View on Age and Productivity  in Ageing, Health, and Productivity: The Economics of Increased Life Expectancy. Oxford University Press. pg 155
[4] Reis, S. M.(1998). Work left undone. Mansfield Center, CT: Creative Learning Press.
[5] Reis, S. M.(2002) Toward a Theory of Creativity in Diverse Creative Women,  Creativity Research Journal, University of Connecticut.
[6] Raina, M.K. The Creativity Passion: E. Paul Torrance’s Voyages of Discovering Creativity. Greenwood Publishing Group. pg 91
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