Cultures and creativity

I was intrigued to read that "Creativity can be enhanced by experiencing cultures different from one's own, according to a study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin" particularly since I'd just had lunch with someone who'd returned to the US after living in Holland for seven years, whose daughter was just going off to live in Brazil, and whose son is trilingual – Dutch, Spanish, and English. Was this family, therefore, more creative than others who hadn't lived abroad? The research report suggested that it might be.

Researchers looked at students who had lived abroad and those who hadn't, testing them on different aspects of creativity. Relative to a control group, which hadn't experienced a different culture, participants in the different culture group provided more evidence of creativity in various standard tests of the trait. Those results suggest that multicultural learning is a critical component of the adaptation process, acting as a creativity catalyst. [The researchers made the suggestion that ]"it would be worthwhile to explore whether neurological changes occur within the creative process during intensive foreign culture experiences. [This would] help paint a more nuanced picture of how foreign culture experiences may not only enhance creativity but also, perhaps literally, as well as figuratively, broaden the mind.

In an earlier report of the studies the point was made that

This shows us that there is some sort of psychological transformation that needs to occur when people are living in a foreign country in order to enhance creativity. This may happen when people work to adapt themselves to a new culture

I've lived and worked in several countries – so I wondered whether I am more creative (but I don't have a control group to compare with). But I thought it would be fun to find out. I tried out the Creative Problem Solving self-test from Psychology Today that first asks

Are you a creative problem-solver? Do you typically approach a problem from many perspectives or opt for the same old solution that worked in the past? In his work on human motivation, Robert E. Franken states that in order to be creative, you need to be able to view things from different perspectives. Creativity is linked to fundamental qualities of thinking, such as flexibility and tolerance of ambiguity. The following test was developed to evaluate whether your attitude towards problem-solving and the manner in which you approach a problem are conducive to creative thinking.

And then explains the test: This test is made up of two types of questions: scenarios and self-assessment. For each scenario, answer according to how you would most likely behave in a similar situation. For the self-assessment questions, indicate the degree to which the given statements apply to you. In order to receive the most accurate results, please answer each question as honestly as possible.
After finishing the test, you will receive a Snapshot Report with an introduction, a graph and a personalized interpretation for one of your test scores. You will then have the option to purchase the full results.

I have no idea how valid or reliable it is but I came out with a creativity score of 90/100 and a 'snapshot report' that says:

Your responses indicate that you love to let your imagination run wild when problem-solving. You seem to realize that, while rules and conventions have their place in the process, they can be restrictive when coming up with innovative solutions. Therefore, although you may not immediately reject solutions that have worked in the past, you'd rather not have them be your only option. People who score similarly to you are "out-of-the-box" thinkers who like to toy with different ideas, pushing beyond the boundaries of standard ways of thinking and doing things. They aren't opposed to taking risks or testing solutions that are "off-the-wall" or that don't have a proven track record. Although there's generally nothing wrong with taking a more practical approach to problems (and in some cases, it may be the best option), using it as the only method does impose some limitations. By taking that step outside your standard way of thinking and expanding your imagination, you'll not only be able to increase your options but may end up uncovering ideas that had never crossed your mind before!

This sounds a little like a horoscope, but oh well. Also what crossed my mind were all the ten caveats about culture surveys that I'd just written about in my new book (coming out July 22 in the UK). I looked at these again and thought they were probably just as applicable to creativity surveys. (But I still liked the idea that I'm creative! And maybe the fact that I have experienced many different cultures does contribute to that?)

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