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The importance of – and bias against – creativity

As an under-creative professional modern dancer, I expected that transitioning to a conventional job would go smoothly. (By conventional job I mean one that takes place in an office and looks favorably upon wearing shoes.) Yet, to my surprise, employers expressed fear that I was "too creative," thus a misfit in a traditional work culture. So I was interested to come across this CNN.com article today, which suggests that for all the hype about creativity being a virtue in business, evidence suggests humans may have an evolutionary bias against it. From the piece:

According to psychologist and Wharton management professor Jennifer Mueller, research shows that even as people explicitly aspire to creativity and strongly endorse it as a fundamental driving force of positive change, they routinely reject creative ideas and show an implicit bias against them under conditions of uncertainty. Subjects in Mueller's study also exhibited a failure to see or acknowledge creativity, even when directly presented with it.

"Because there is such a strong social norm to endorse creativity, and people also feel authentic positive attitudes toward creativity, people may be reluctant to admit that they do not want creativity; hence, the bias against creativity may be particularly slippery to diagnose," Mueller and her colleagues suggest.

Good reasons ground our comfort with the familiar, the article reports:

From an evolutionary standpoint, uncertainty was a bad thing. "If you weren't sure that there was a tiger in front of you, by the time you were sure it was too late," [neuroscientist and artist Beau Lotto, PhD] observes. "Our brains thus evolved to take uncertainty and make it certain."

But in times without tigers, as writer Amanda Enayati argues, creativity is probably quite good for our mental health:

Creativity also matters to our emotional well-being as we find our way in an uncertain, rapidly shifting world. Imagination underpins our ability to remain resilient during difficult and stressful times since creative people tend to be more tolerant of ambiguity and better able to come back from defeat.

Previously: Exploring the link between addiction and creativity

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