July 28, 2011

Know Someone Who's Very Creative? Probably A Jerk!

They don't put it quite like that, but psychologists practically say as much in a recent study about the personality traits of creative types. The study was published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.
 
The psychologists asked more than 1,300 college students to complete a personality test and answer creativity questionnaires. Researchers wanted to know how six different personality traits influenced creativity.

Here's what they found:


  • The personality characteristic with the greatest influence on creativity was openness to experience. Extroversion also ranked high.  
  • Emotionality and conscientiousness made no difference. And the same for agreeableness -- the trait found in those who compromise, sympathize, and get along with others.
  • Honesty combined with humility affected creativity in a negative way.
Said Paul Silva, the study's lead researcher and assocate professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro: "Our research didn't find a huge effect, and we certainly aren't claiming that all creative people are insufferably arrogant but, on average, people with a lot of creative accomplishments were less humble and modest."

While the creative personality has many apealing traits -- curiousity, openness to new experiences -- it also has some unappealing ones -- less modesty and more arrogance, Silva notes. But, he adds, scoring low on honesty-humility can actually be quite helpful to people in creative fields. "You're going to have critics and detractors and people who discourage you from pursuing your creative vision." The further you get in a creative field, the louder the criticism gets, so it takes self-assurance, perhaps with a dash of arrogance thrown in, to stick with it and take creative risks.

But these traits may deprive creative types of the social skills necessary to develop important professional contacts. "So the truly arrogant will have a harder time cultivating the relationships and networks needed to get 'plugged in' to a creative community," Silva said.

I'm recapping this study having just read several obituaries for Lucien Freud, the very creative British portrait painter. He seems to fit this portrait, as it were.

You can see study details at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S019188691100287X.

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