PSY213 - Lecture 6 - 28 Feb, 2013
Creativity, Wisdom, and Age
2 main areas of research: nature of creative process and the creative person
What do we need to know about creativity?
I. Constituents of the creative process
Creativity is as much social as individual process
–Time (process takes time)
e.g. evolution, creativity often compared to process procreation (long gestational period
Some argue creativity consists of building upon an initial insight over years to fully develop
Insight key starting off point
–Are creative products planned?
–Is c. domain specific or universal?
Are creative process the same for writer, painters, etc. or do they each have something specific
to their own domain?
–C. exists in different amounts
–Is c. possessed only by a few individuals?
–Can c. be taught?
–Is c. conscious or unconscious?
II. Creative persons
•Personality and motivational qualities
Creativity mostly limited to one domain
A relatively high intelligence
A well-developed imagination
Flexibility and skill in intellectual decision-making
Independence of judgment A preference for building new conceptual structures rather than relying on existing
An alertness to gaps in knowledge
An ability to recognize key problems
Personality & motivational characteristics
• Willingness to face hostility & risks
• Openness to new experiences
• Commitment to work
• Intrinsic motivation
• Set their own rules
• Need for competence
• Conflict between self-criticism and self-confidence
• Conflict between social isolation and social integration
Creativity and the life span
Most behavioral scientists regard creativity as a mental ability possessed, in different
amounts, by everyone.
Accordingly, creativity (like intelligence) can be measured by specific psychometric
tests which, when administered to different age groups, can also help to determine
whether there are significant age-related difference in creativity.
One other line of research, the product-centered approach, focuses on the study of
eminent creators, and it is thus based upon an historical analysis of the creative
output of these individuals throughout their career
Recent studies of exceptional creative achievement over the lifespan centered on
three core topics:
•the age curve that specifies how creative output varies over the course of a career • the connection between productive precocity, longevity, and rate of output, and
•the relation between quantity and quality of output (i.e., between "productivity"
and level of "creativity").
•If one plots creative output in general as a function of age, productivity in
adulthood (age 20+) rises fairly rapidly to a definite peak and thereafter decline
gradually until output is about half the rate at the peak
•BUT: the location of the peak, and the size of the post-peak decline, vary depending
on the area of creative endeavor:
•At one end, some fields (e.g. poetry, pure mathematics, and theoretical physics)
show early peaks, round the late 20s to early 30s, with steep descents thereafter, so
that the output rate eventually becomes less than one-quarter of the maximum.
• At the opposite end, some fields (e.g., fiction, history, philosophy, medicine,
scholarship) show a slow rise to a comparatively late peak in the late 40s or even 50s,
with a minimal drop-off afterward.
• Yet other fields (e.g., biology, psychology) show age curves between these two
ends with a maximum output rate around age 40 and moderate decline thereafter
(Output in the last years being half the rate of the peak years).
Precocity, longevity, and output rate
• Individual differences in lifetime output are substantial. A small percentage of the
workers in any given domain are responsible for the bulk of the work. • In principle there are three distinct ways of achieving a large lifetime output:
1. The individual may exhibit exceptional precocity by beginning contributions at
an uncommonly early age.
2. The individual may attain a large output by producing steadily until quite late
in life and thereby display productive longevity.
3. The individual produces a lot throughout the whole career Cont’nd
Precocity: begin producing very early outputs at a very early age e.g. Mozart wrote
first opera at age 12
What do the actual data suggest? As expected, precocity, longevity, and output rate
are indeed each strongly associated with total lifetime output. Second, these three
components are often linked with each other. That is, those who are precocious also
tend to display longevity, and both precocity and longevity are in turn associated
with high output rates at each age
Quantity and age, and Quality and age
Do these two curves differ? Does it make any difference to the age- achievement
relationship if we consider the whole output of creative persons or just the most
Conceivably, a decline in productivity (quantity) with age could be compensated for
by an increase in the quality of the creative output
One way to address this question: calculating the age curves separately for major
creative works and minor creative works.
Trade off between quantity and quality, produce less but what we produce is of
If we actually do this, the resulting curves are basically identical. In other words,
those periods in a creator’s life that see the most masterpieces also see the greatest
number of mediocre works.
Yet another way of saying the same thing: the "quality ratio" or the proportion of
major products to total output per age unit, neither increases nor decreases with
In sum: those individual creators who are the most productive over the years also
tend, on average, to be those who produce the most h