Is creativity on a downhill slide?

02Just as the business world seems to be competing to attract creative workers, students’ scores on tests of creative thinking appear to be declining.

Education professor at the College of William and Mary Kyung Hee Kim analyzed scores from the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT) for students from kindergarten through twelfth grade. According to Kim, normative scores on the TTCT began the downward slide in 1984 or shortly after. Student’s scores at all grade levels have been gradually going down in the United States since that time. This, steady decline, as opposed to a drastic drop,  is not necessarily related to number of years in school, as younger students creativity is also declining. The decrease is most evident in the ability to elaborate, or produce details that support the main creative idea.  [1].

Is there a connection between new “innovative” products, and the decline of innovation? The drive for creativity in business is aimed at bringing in greater profits. The new “innovative” products are largely electronics and the applications used on them. However, these two types of products are now so complex that most people do not use all of their capability. They have been that way for about as long as creativity has been declining.  

An innovative product does not sell itself. The consumer must be convinced that they “need” this product, which is accomplished through creative marketing.  For example, new electronics such as tablets and smart phones actually have less capability than computers. Therefore, people must  buy into the idea that mobile electronics are necessary. They must feel the need to be connected and have the ability to reach others on the internet and access the vast pool of data on the web at any time. People also want to look cool doing so. It not just the ease and portability of new electronics that boost sales, it is also their image.

But, the very selling point of these items, the ability to connect to others and access  information and entertainment instantly may be leading to the lowering of creativity in students. The constant data influx leads people to scanning. According to Nicholas Carr “When we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning.” [2]

Of course, students attending school in 1984 rarely had access to a computer at home. The major innovation in 1984 was the mouse driven Macintosh with the graphic user interface; allowing anyone, not just the tech-smart computer “geeks’ to use it. Availability and use of home computers took off rapidly from that point.

Ironically, 1984 is also the year the word “cyberspace” appeared in William Gibson’s novel, Neuromancer as the idea of an illusionary world of data streaming to humans by intelligent machines. And of course 1984 is the title of the famous dystopian novel by George Orwell (pen name of Eric Arthur Blair). 

The decline of creativity–does it go hand in hand with the creation of innovations that do our thinking for us?

[1] Kim, Kyung Hee (2011). The creativity crisis: The decrease in creative thinking scores on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking. Creativity Research Journal, 23, 285-295.
[2] Carr, Nicholas (2010) The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains | Magazine”. 2010-05-24. Retrieved 4 July 2010.
This entry was posted in Creativity, Education trends and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Is creativity on a downhill slide?

  1. knlistman says:

    Reblogged this on Write about what? and commented:

    How could innovation kill creativity?

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