Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Why Concientiousness, Agreeableness/ Empathizing are anti-creative


The positive correlation between creativity and Eysenck's Psychoticism trait, also implies a positive correlation with the more specific Schizotypy trait, and a negative (inverse) correlation with Big Five traits of Conscientiousness and Agreeableness (and Agreeableness is essentially identical with Simon Baron Cohen's Empathizing trait).

The inverse correlation of Creativity in terms of C and A is understandable, and necessary - once C and A are properly understood.


Creativity implies a strong ego, a person who looks at a situation and comes up with something different because he believes it possible - even probable - that he knows better than other people, and is (to some extent) indifferent to the opinions of others on this matter.

Conscientiousness is sometimes conceptualized in terms of delayed gratification - the ability to put-off gratification now, in return for greater gratification in the future. For example, to defer the pleasure of playing and instead study academic subjects - forgoing current pleasure of play, and suffering the tedium of work, for a (hoped for) greater pleasure in the future.

But this is an error - because it is not the way the mind is motivated. The mind actually works by maximizing current gratification - by doing what is positively rewarding, and avoiding what yields negative emotions.


Therefore the proper way to conceptualize Conscientiousness is that a high C person gets more gratification here and now by doing what they feel is best to do, or necessary to do, or which they have been told to do by an authority, or what they are supposed to do according to peer pressure.

Therefore, high C implies a high degree of concern for internalized social norms - a tendency to feel good (here and now) when conforming to these social norms/ values - and/or a tendency to feel bad (e.g. guilty, ashamed, afraid) when transgressing or failing to follow these social norms.

This is what links Conscientiousness to Agreeableness or Empathizing - a dominating concern with the views of other people - attention to knowing the emotions and wishes of others, a calibrations of one's own (observed or perceived) behaviours to stay in line with the expectations or desires of others.


So, it can be seen that Conscientiousness and Agreeableness are two side of the same coin (and the inverse of Psychoticism) - which is that a person high in Conscientiousness and also Agreeableness is one who - here and now, and in the present moment - derives the greatest satisfaction from his conformity to the social group, and is attentive to cues of social group values: and (more important) who has aversive feelings if transgresses or he fails to follow social norms, such as would happen if creativity thinking was in play.

And such a person is not creative - because he is focused on learning and doing what the social group wants him to do, and is dominated by such concerns.


Note: As described elsewhere, and in line with Gregory Clark's description in A Farewell to Alms - I believe that higher-C, higher-A were positively selected-for in the context of complex agricultural societies - where high-C, high A (and also high general intelligence) were economically useful; and where individuals with high-P traits would have tended to die from starvation or disease - or were differentially killed as being vagabonds, criminals and outlaws.  


Robert said...

Isn't it just this simple?: A naturally creative man who can't resist the pressures of daily living and carve out enough time and resources for him to be creative is never going to create. And yet he will never be happy until he does create something. He has been betrayed by his softer feelings.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Robert - Well, one idea of this blog is to demonstrate by multiple short arguments or pieces of evidence - that creativity is rare in human groups, and sometimes (all but) absent - that it is a disposition (mostly a product of heredity plus some other less well understood things).

So, the issue is mostly creative people (and what they are like, what are their characteristics) rather than 'creativity' which might be done by anybody under certain circumstances.

Anonymous said...

I myself find that my creativity has waned significantly as I have finished my formal education and begun work. I have evidence from earlier phases of my life that I was at least a moderately Creative person (including several inventions and art projects)---yet when I turn on the tap today it runs dry.

The thing that keeps returning to me as I read over these several posts is the question of how one can become more creative: certainly not by simply becoming less Conscientious and Agreeable? Yet encouraging one's latent Psychoticism will have that effect. Your work thus far seems focused on diagnosis of Creativity, rather than (yet) an enquiry into how it might be encouraged socially, environmentally, or introspectively.

Bruce Charlton said...

@rb - I would say that increasing the proportion of unstructured time alone is the key - as Glenn Gould once said:

GOULD: I don't know what the effective ratio would be, but I've always had some sort of intuition that for every hour you spend in the company of other human beings, you need "x" number of hours alone. Now, what "x" represents I don't really know; it might be two and seven-eighths or seven and two-eighths, but it is a substantial ratio.

Secondly, you may need to find whether you are an evening or a morning person - an owl or a lark: I am a lark, so I get up at 05.00 hours and do my best thinking/ creative stuff before 11.00. But most creatives are owls.

Thirdly - you need to get enough sleep of sufficiently high quality: a lot of creativity happens during sleep.

Anonymous said...

That ... makes a fair amount of sense. Between children and work, if I stay up late, then I get insufficient sleep (inflexible start time) if I get sufficient sleep, I don't get personal reflexion time. Sounds like I need a Creative solution to solve this irritant now that I have a better candidate profile... :)

Bruce Charlton said...

@rb - Your positive response has encouraged me to make my comment into a post.

Luke Lea said...

Monomania also helps -- or is that part of psychoticism?

Bruce Charlton said...

@LL - yet but monomania is not so much an explanation, but what needs to be explained.

Unknown said...

The arrogance of the creative tells him that what he is doing is more important. And he takes the time. Unfortunately, this an, unpleasant, uncooperative attitude.

Sarah Mohamed Saghir said...

can you explain the ratio? i don't understand the math lol

Bruce Charlton said...

@SMS - And I don't understand your question! Which ratio, which math?