Are We Less Creative?

So are we getting less creative?  But there's some good news too.

According to, "Research in recent years has suggested that young Americans might be less creative now than in decades past, even while their intelligence — as measured by IQ tests — continues to rise."

Thankfully, a new study out of the University of Washington Information School and Harvard University puts an end to that kind of thinking. Or creating.

The study of students over 20 years found that, while some aspects of creativity — such as the ones used in visual arts, not surprisingly — are gently rising over the years, other aspects, "such as the nuances of creative writing, could be declining," reports.

As someone who's written (but not published, though come close, over eight novels), that makes me very sad.

The question researchers asked was, "How have the style, content and form of adolescents' art-making and creative writing changed over the last 20 years?"

Katie Davis, UW assistant professor, and fellow researchers studied 354 examples of visual art and 50 examples of creative writing by teenagers published between 1990 and 2011.

What they studied was artwork from a monthly magazine for teens, and writing from a similar annual publication featuring student fiction. "The researchers analyzed and coded the works, blind as to year, looking for trends over that time." the Web site notes.

And while students' visual art examples "showed an increase in the sophistication and complexity both in the designs and the subject matter over the years, seeming "more finished, and fuller, with backgrounds more fully rendered, suggesting greater complexity," as Davis described them, student writing, on the other hand, "showed the young authors adhering more to 'conventional writing practices' and a trend toward less play with genre, more mundane narratives and simpler language over the two decades studied." explains that the researchers did the study during a time of "great innovation in digital art," with new tools for creative production and examples of fine art "a mere click or two away, serving to inform and inspire the students in their own work."

In addition, the study was done not in a lab but in students' everyday classrooms, which may have had some effect on the results.

"It remains an open question as to whether the entire U.S. has seen a decline in literary creativity and a parallel increase in visual creativity among its youth over the last 20 years," quotes Davis. "Because society — indeed any society — depends on the creativity of its citizens to flourish, this is a question that warrants serious attention in future creativity research."


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