Agonizing Creativity


A study to be published in the journal Psychological Science shows that many people harbor an anti-creativity bias that they are generally not aware of. Despite professing a desire for creative thinking, most people are actually unable to identify a creative idea when they encounter one.

Instead, they associate creativity with words like "agony," "vomit" and "poison". They also rejected novel ideas for products that employed new technologies. 

The study, "The Bias Against Creativity: Why People Desire But Reject Creative Ideas," also revealed that novelty in itself made people squirm: test subjects did not like the idea of a nanotechnology-powered running shoe with the ability to adjust fabric thickness and reduce blisters. Even objective evidence was found not to reduce resistance to new ideas. Anti-creativity bias was found to be unconscious, like racism: the bias was also so subtle that they were simply unaware of it, leaving them unable to recognize creativity.

Uncertain about the value of creative ideas, people eschew the novel and experimental in favor of the tried and tested. In light of this strong general bias against novelty, study co-authors Jack Goncalo, Jennifer Mueller and Shimul Melwani advise that creatives spend more time devising ways to help institutions accept innovation and recognize creative thought.

Image by Kelbv on Flickr, courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing.