Is creativity in men and women different?



Yearn to be recognized for creative achievement? Over forty? You may be too late – unless you are female.  Creative production in a variety of fields – mathematics, medicine,  physics, psychology – increased until age 30 -39 and then hit a decline according to H. Lehman.[1]  D. K. Simonton  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 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 culture 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]

Sally Reis 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. More women try to do everything and do it well.[4] This is in contrast to the more focused aim at specific achievement pursued by most males. Reis’ study of creative female mathematicians found that there was almost no difference between the genders on measures of intelligence and cognition. They tended to show “rebellious independence, introversion, and a rejection of outside influences.” However, females in mathematical  research activity were highly flexible and original, and less likely to accept outside influence than male peers. During interviews 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.
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1 Response to Is creativity in men and women different?

  1. knlistman says:

    Reblogged this on Write about what? and commented:

    Is the difference what you think it is?

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