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The Importance of Being Creative?

PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2016 3:28 pm
by Dave Walker
In a pop psychology article about raising creative children, I saw a citation to a 2008 study with an interesting hypothesis: Arts foster scientific success: Avocations of Nobel, National Academy, Royal Society, and Sigma Xi members. It suggests that the most successful scientists are most likely to have a "creative" hobby outside of their work -- playing an instrument, dancing, singing, writing, photography, etc. Most interestingly to me, it seems this correlates with a scientist's success: the chance of having a creative pursuit follows:

Nobel laureates > Academy members > normal scientists > general public

Does this surprise anyone else?

I feel like there is currently such a strong focus on finding passion in one's job, in "Doing What You Love." Likewise, there is little empathy for outside pursuits. Perhaps I am biased from my age and my still-early career path, but this data surprised me.

Though I must say that in my personal experience (data not shown!), the most successful, relatable and interesting scientists have creative pursuits that they value as much as their own accomplishments. What does that say about success?

If you're interested, the article is available online for free: ... uccess.pdf

Re: The Importance of Being Creative?

PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2016 4:02 pm
by Rich Lemert
I do not find this at all surprising.

Consider the stereotypical PI for whom research is his life. This person is going to be subject to significant intellectual fatigue. The mind, like the body, needs to balance 'challenge' with 'recovery'. An artistic avocation is like cross-training for an athlete; you still get some exercise, but you're letting over-worked muscles rest while giving under-worked muscles some needed attention.

Their is also the 'distraction' effect at work. How often have you come up with a great idea while in the middle of doing something else. When someone is focused on painting a still life or performing as part of a string quartet, their subconcious mind is still back there, churning on his technical problems - unfettered by the rational mind trying to fit those thoughts into pre-conceived directions.

Re: The Importance of Being Creative?

PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2016 11:21 pm
by Dave Walker
Very true, Rich. I especially like your reference to exercise vs recovery. The article suggests that scientists are naturally creative people, and so a creative pursuit is more than just a hobby in a way.

Also I noted that the authors very clearly separated "making art" from "interest in art." To them it wasn't enough to collect art or appreciate had to physically be creating in order to reap the benefits.