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Social Psychology of Creativity

Social Psychology of Creativity

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Social Psychology of Creativity

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  1. Social Psychology of Creativity September 20, 2005

  2. Personality Approach • Focus on traits (e.g. tolerance of ambiguity) & individual differences (e.g. divergent thinking ability) • Some people are consistently more creative than others over time and across different situations. • Favors self-report and biographical studies of eminently creative people.

  3. Situational Approach • Focus on the environment in which a creative individual works. • Certain types of situations can make people more or less creative. • Favors experimental studies of college undergraduates.

  4. Social Psychology of Creativity • Intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation • Amabile (1983) proposed that an important situational factor is the extent to which situations promote either an intrinsic or extrinsic interest in a problem. • Many highly creative people reported that their creativity was constrained by overly controlling environments.

  5. Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation • Definitions: What is intrinsic motivation? • Harlow (1950) described the interest shown by monkeys in a puzzle manipulation. • Taylor (1960) proposed an “inherent” interest in cognitively engaging tasks. • Current: People who engage in activities because of their own interest or personal sense of satisfaction and fulfillment are intrinsically motivated whereas persons who engage in activities to achieve an external goal are extrinsically motivated.

  6. Early Research • Deci interested in consequences of reward on motivation. • If I pay people will they work harder? • Over-justification effect: Pay people for playing with puzzles and they will later play with the puzzles less than those who initially played without being paid. • Being paid to do an enjoyable activity actually lowers motivation to continue that activity.

  7. What explains this effect? • When people do something they enjoy without reward they attribute their behavior to their love for the activity or the intrinsic interest of the task itself. • When people are paid they attribute their behavior to the incentive (I did it for the money) and are less likely to engage in that activity when the incentive is removed.

  8. Beyond Money • Monetary rewards are not the only type of constraint that reduces intrinsic motivation. • Good Player Awards • Marshmallows • Video surveillance • Deadlines

  9. Intrinsic Motivation & Creativity • Research on personality traits identified intrinsic motivation as a predictor of creative achievements. • Biographical evidence also suggested that highly creative people display high levels of intrinsic motivation. • Focus all attention of work, ignoring outside influences. • Shun rewards and recognition. • Refuse to work in “controlling” environments perceived as stifling.

  10. Guiding Metaphor • Key Question: Can a person’s environment raise or lower their intrinsic motivation which will in turn influence their creativity? • The Maze: Extrinsically motivated person will take the shortest way out of a maze in order to exit as quickly as possible. Intrinsically motivated person will explore the maze because it is interesting and in the process will find a more original exit.

  11. Empirical Test of the Theory • Subjects: Professional creative writers using newspaper advertisements. • “Writers: If you are involved in writing, especially poetry, fiction or drama, you can make three dollars for an hour of your time. We are studying people’s reasons for writing.” • Subjects came to the experiment with a high level of involvement in writing.

  12. Creative Writers • Subjects also had to answer “YES” to one or more of the following questions: (a) Completed one or more advanced creative writing courses, (b) Published one or more works of poetry, (c) Published one or more works of fiction, (d) Spent an average of four or more hours of their own time per week writing. • Average response to last question was: 6.3 hours.

  13. Experimental Manipulation • Manipulation: Subjects completed a questionnaire about their attitudes toward the target creativity task (writing). Rank ordered several reasons for writing. • Questionnaire was designed not to assess their attitudes but to change them. • Push polling example. • Rank order statements about writing.

  14. Intrinsic Questionnaire • Intrinsically interesting aspects of writing. • You get a lot of pleasure out of reading something good that you have written. • You enjoy the opportunity for self expression. • You achieve new insights through your writing. • You derive satisfaction from expressing yourself clearly and eloquently.

  15. Extrinsic Questionnaire • Extrinsic reasons for writing. • You want your writing teachers to be favorably impressed with your writing talent. • You have heard of cases where one bestselling novel or collection of poems made the author financially secure. • You enjoy public recognition of your work. • You know that many of the best jobs available require good writing skills. • You teachers or parents have encouraged you to go into writing.

  16. Creativity Measure • Write a brief poem where the first and last lines consisted of a single word “laughter.” • Several poets judged each poem for creativity. Independently reached high level of agreement.

  17. Three Important Findings • The control group produced poems that were rated as being highly creative (not surprising since they were creative writers). • Subjects who received the intrinsic motivation manipulation produced poems that were somewhat more creative than the control group. • Subjects who received the extrinsic motivation manipulation produced poems that were much less creative than either the control or the intrinsic motivation condition.

  18. Ethical Issues • Subjects were debriefed about the purpose of the study. • All subjects completed the “intrinsic” version of the questionnaire. • Do you think these precautions were enough? • Was the study worth doing given the risks to the participants?

  19. Discussion Questions • Is it as easy to increase a person’s level of intrinsic motivation as it is to increase their level of extrinsic motivation? • Can this research be used to increase creativity or only avoid killing it? • Can you think of cases where an extrinsic orientation clearly led to a creative outcome? Why? What was different? • Most fields award their most creative people. Should this practice be discontinued?