I always used to talk about racism when I talked about logical flaws in my composition classes–that stereotypes came from generalizing badly. Sample size too small, oversimplifying, etc. (I don’t spend much time on logical flaws now, and I miss them–such fun names! Such color and metaphor–one day, the Straw Man smelled a Red Herring and Ergo, Propter Hoc!)
It never occurred to me until I read “Study: Racial stereotyping linked to creative stagnation” on Salon.com that racism was connected (in inverse proportion) to creativity. It makes sense, though.
I’ve written once before in this blog on the notion of lowering associative borders, in a post called “I Can’t Get No Satisficing.” Having high associative borders is similar to what this study (described in more detail in in this article, “Racial Essentialism Reduces Creative Thinking, Makes People More Closed-Minded” in Science Daily) calls categorical thinking.
The lead researcher, Carmit Tadmor, and her co-authors say that although creative stagnation and racism “concern very different outcomes, they both occur when people fixate on existing category information and conventional mindsets.”
The study is hopeful that people can change their thinking. I am too–part of the reason I want to begin doing workshops on creativity is that studies show people can become more creative thinkers. We’re not stuck with what we were born with.
What I would call a “creativity workshop” is typically called “enhancement training” or “creativity training” in cognitive research. Hsen-Hsing Ma published an article in 2006 with overall terrific news about the possibility that we can become more creative.
Ma cites an early researcher, Paul Torrance, who found that “programs teaching children to think creatively were at least 50% successful.” Another study from those rockin’ 1970s by Mansfield, et. al., showed “most evaluation studies of creativity training programs seem to support the view that creativity can be trained.”
SO WE’VE KNOWN THIS FOR A LONG TIME.
For the 2006 article, jazzily titled, “A Synthetic Analysis of the Effectivieness of Single Components and Packages in Creativity Training Programs,” Ma did what is called meta-analysis of studies (reading LOTS of studies on an issue and summarizing and analyzing their results), showing the following:
Good news item #1: “Overall, the finding of this study confirms the result of Torrance’s (1972) investigation; namely, that children can be taught to think creatively.”
But oh, gracious, the news is better than that:
“This study also found that creativity training programs tended to be more successful with older participants than younger ones.”
So–watch out old racists and stagnant thinkers everywhere. The times they are a changin’ (NOTE: if you’re old enough to recognize that song, you’re just the right age to benefit from creativity training.)
(Image from Creative Commons on flickr, “Coloured Rooms Doorways-Brian Eno Speaker Floers Sound Installation at Marlborough House” by Dominic Alves.)