Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The social perspective is what (usually) trumps and inhibits creativity

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In the previous post

http://iqpersonalitygenius.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/being-creative-is-not-seeking-novelty.html

I created a 'Triangular' thought experiment about picking, washing and collecting carrots to represent a very simple 'problem' that is amenable to a creative solution - but only if the participant was able to recognize the situation as a problem.

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Why I am so sure that most people would 'walk round the triangle' rather than creatively devising a more efficient solution?

The reason is to do with implicit social features of this situation which now require to be emphasized.

(Recall that the personality traits of Empathizing/Agreeableness (E/A), and Conscientiousness (C) are inversely correlated with creativity: that is high E/A and C implies low creativity )

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Implicitly, the Triangle situation entails (in most instances) a social context; and for most people the situation would remain primarily social - which is why its abstract problematic nature would not be recognized.

For example, someone may have been detailed to pick the carrots in a social and hierarchical context - they are told and taught 'how' to pick the carrots by walking the triangle - and the problem is not one of functionality but a matter of obedience.

Implicitly,the task is picking carrots in the way I show you to pick them; and to pick carrots in any other fashion would be to disobey the instructions.

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Even more fundamentally, for most people most of the time, almost everything they do has this primarily 'social' aspect. The social world, the world of 'other people and relationships with them, provides the frame for life.

So, for most people most of the time - the Triangle situation is not perceived as a 'problem', not a functional unit; not perceived as the kind of thing which might have better solutions than the one given - but is perceived in some kind of social context.

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The social context will, typically but not always, tend to lock people into continuing to do the task in the same way they learned it; and feeling the need to understand what is happening in an abstract sense, even worse to isolate the task preparatory to changing it - these are felt as being disloyal to the social context - as being a rejection of the person, group (family, friends, colleagues, mentors) or institution which allocated the task in the first place - which taught it.

The perceived social context is therefore, commonly, a frame which must be overcome before creativity can even get started.

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4 comments:

Vashti said...

I had a work supervisor once who insisted I wasn't to optimise tasks (for instance, stacking papers and filing them all at once). It was not a great job.

Bruce Charlton said...

@V - Presumably because what he was *hearing* was "You taught me the wrong way to do this, I know a better way; the person who taught you was wrong as well - I know better than both of you. What's more all this stuff is really obvious, and only a really dumb person could have failed to see the better way! "

Thursday said...

"You taught me the wrong way to do this, I know a better way; the person who taught you was wrong as well - I know better than both of you. What's more all this stuff is really obvious, and only a really dumb person could have failed to see the better way! "

You make it sound like the genius is anti-tradition. Assuming mere novelty seeking and true creativity are separate things, it would still seem that both are opposed to conservatism, of any sort. So, they often end up allied.

It also seems like conservatives would be those most attuned to the social perspective. Certainly they are the ones who are most likely to do things as they have always been done.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Thu - You make it sound like the genius is anti-tradition.

Yes, that has been common - either by design or simply how things worked-out.

Genius is very much a double edged sword - like all forms of power, I suppose.