Ready, set, create: What instructing people to "be creative" reveals about the meaning and mechanisms of divergent thinking

Emily C. Nusbaum, Paul J. Silvia, Roger Beaty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

79 Scopus citations

Abstract

The "be creative effect"-instructing people to "be creative" before a divergent thinking task makes the responses more creative-is one of the oldest findings in creativity science. The present research suggests that this seemingly simple effect has underappreciated implications for the assessment of divergent thinking and for theories of the executive and controlled nature of creative thought. An experiment measured fluid intelligence and gave 2 divergent thinking tasks: people completed one with "be creative" instructions and the other with "be fluent" (generate as many ideas as possible) instructions. The responses were scored for creativity (using subjective scoring) and for fluency (the total number of ideas). Multilevel latent variable models found, not surprisingly, a large effect of task instructions: asking people to be creative yielded better but fewer responses, suggesting a focus on quality over quantity. Notably, the study replicated both sides of the contentious intelligence-and-creativity literature. When people were told to come up with a lot of ideas and creativity was scored as fluency, intelligence weakly predicted creativity. But when people were told to be creative and creativity was scored as subjective ratings, intelligence more strongly predicted creativity. We conclude with implications for the assessment of creativity, for models of the intentional and controlled nature of creative thought, and for the ongoing debate over creativity and intelligence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-432
Number of pages10
JournalPsychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts
Volume8
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Applied Psychology

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