Psychologists Find a New Way to Objectively Measure Creativity

Can creativity be measured?

Tests already exist for this purpose, but they present problems of objectivity, and also the time needed to evaluate and analyze the answers given during the associated tasks can be prohibiting. In the field of the psychology of creativity, theoretical models suggest that the most creative people have a semantic memory that allows them to establish connections between words whose meanings are often far apart. Within this theoretical framework, they hypothesized that simply naming unrelated words could serve as an objective measure of creativity. They publish the results of the study in Proceedings National Academy of Science.



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What is creativity?

From a psychological point of view, creativity comprises two components: convergent thinking and its antagonist, divergent thinking. One is aimed at finding the most appropriate and optimal response to a problem, while the other is more focused on searching for a range of available solutions. The former is usually fairly easy to measure since only one correct answer can be given in the tasks in which one is trying to measure. However, the situation becomes more complicated when it comes to measuring divergent thinking. Current tests include open-ended questions with answers that are often very long and difficult to analyze. To overcome the limitations of this type of assessment, scientists have developed a new test: the divergent association task.

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An objective measure

In their experiment, the scientists compared the ability to predict the level of creativity of individuals with their new method by comparing the predictions with old benchmark tests. Their task is simply to ask participants to generate a set of ten words that are as different as possible. An algorithm then measures the semantic distance between the proposed words. According to the original hypothesis about the memory structures of the most creative people, they should generate sets of words semantically farther apart than the others. This is what the researchers observed in their experiment with more than 8,000 participants from 98 countries. Creativity has never been so easy to measure.

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Naming unrelated words predicts creativity

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