Counting the Muses

Notes by Howard Gardner

In psychology, the study of creativity has been a poor stepchild in comparison with the study of intelligence. There are probably many reasons for this, ranging from historical accident (Binet and his followers were interested in success in a certain kind of Parisian school) to societal demand (many tests were chosen to filter out those who were unlikely to benefit from higher education). Only since 1950 has there been a small band of researchers who have focused primarily on creativity; and most of these individuals have insisted that creativity, roughly the capacity to come up with new questions and with unexpected answers, differs from intelligence, roughly the capacity to answer old questions quickly and accurately.

Among those who study creativity, there is a division among those who are looking to replicate the work in intelligence by developing a battery of creativity tests (J P Guilford, E Paul Torrance) and those, including me, who have preferred to study “Big C” creativity as it is recognized by the society (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Dean Keith Simonton, myself). A few investigators, led by Teresa Amabile, have sought to combine ‘judgment by knowledgeable experts’ with psychometric precision.

In work described here, James Kaufman breaks new ground. His instrument, the Kaufman Domains of Creativity Scale, suggests that there are five broad domains of creativity. And as he indicates (p. 303), these domains have a rough parallel to the multiple intelligences that I’ve delineated. As a bonus, Kaufman also relates his five domains to the so-called Big Five Personality factors. At a time when society is placing increasingly great value on the discovery and nurturing of creative talents, it is good to have available this new instrument and to examine its implications and applications.

To read the study in its entirety click here.