Creativity : psychological and evolutionary perspectives

Clegg, Helen Tarm (2006). Creativity : psychological and evolutionary perspectives. PhD thesis The Open University.



The most commonly cited explanation for the evolutionary emergence of creative ability is sexual selection. This suggests that the ability to produce creative products arose to advertise the qualities of the artist and thereby attract sexual partners. Thus the higher the quality of the product the greater the number of mates the artist will attract. The first study considered the definition of creativity by a general population and developed a measure of self-perceived creative ability. From the 344 participants it was found that creativity was predominantly considered to encompass Arts based activities. It was also considered by over 80% of the participants that creative products communicated something about the creative individual. The second study investigated whether artworks act as fitness indicators by accurately conveying the qualities of the artists. Six male artists each made an artwork and completed a personality inventory and an intelligence test. Fifty-one females rated the artists on creativity, intelligence and personality traits. Whilst intelligence was the only variable that was found to be significantly accurately assessed, qualitative analysis suggested that the raters were able to assess levels of personality traits but not to make subtle distinctions between these levels. Furthermore, these ratings were used in mate choice decisions when choosing which artist they would most like to go out on a date with. The final study was an online questionnaire asking artists about their artistic behaviours and attitudes, their and their partner's personality and their reproductive success. Results demonstrated that more professional male artists gained greater numbers of sexual partners and used a more short-term mating strategy. Moreover, both male and female professional artists had significantly greater potential fertility than less professional artists. These results strongly support the sexual selection theory for the emergence of creativity.

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