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. Over the past few decades the score for students at all grade levels have been gradually going down in the United States. This is a steady decline as opposed to a drastic drop and is not necessarily related to number of years in school, as scores of younger students are also declining. The decrease is mainly in the ability to elaborate, or produce the wealth of details that support the main creative idea. According to Kim normative scores on the TTCT began the downward slide in 1984 or shortly after [1].

Is there a connection between the two? It may seem obvious that a scarce resource is more valuable but there may be another connection beyond that. The drive for creativity in business is aimed at bringing in greater profits. The first task is coming up with new “innovative” products, but innovation in and of itself does not sell products.  These are largely electronics, and electronics have long been complex to the point that most people do not use all of their capability.

The second part is convincing people that they “need” the product through the creative artistry of marketing and advertisement.  For example, new electronics such as tablets and smart phones actually have less capability as computers than earlier processors. People must be convinced that they must have the simplified, enhanced ability to reach and add to 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 their image.

But the very selling point of these items, the ability to connect to others and access vast amounts of information and entertainment may be leading to the lowering of creativity in students. The constant data influx leads people to superficial 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] This lack of deep thinking may have led to the decrease in creativity.

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 technologically minded, to use a computer. Availability and use of home computers took off rapidly from that point.  (1984 is also ironically the year the word “cyberspace” first appeared in a novel as the idea of an illusionary world of data streaming to humans by intelligent machines. )

The decline of creativity – does it go hand in hand with the creation of our most recent innovations?


[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, Educational trends and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s