Raymond B. Cattell (1987) p 499-504
1. Some myths and facts about genius
“Creativity” became an educationally more fashionable term in the 1960s. Teachers began to revolt against making measured examination grades the criteria of educational success. In sophisticated circles originality and creativity have always been revered. But it has also been recognized that defining true creativity, in art, science, and other realms, as distinct from more waywardness, has been a fundamental difficulty. The genius and the oddity have too frequently been confused.
Because what is newly created is strange, folklore has connected genius with oddity. Any new, successful biological variant - such as a hairless ape - is also strange, but it may be perfectly normal, if by normal we mean healthy and effective. On the other hand it is probably true of cultural variations as of biological mutations, that only about one in a thousand is an improvement on the status quo, and the rest are unhealthy misfits, quickly to be eliminated in the course of nature, If by a genius we mean someone who produces a better remedy against disease, or a better play, then a genius may seem unconventional. But “bohemianism” is a poor indication of genius. Nevertheless, love of the occult continues to favor a belief in the transcendental strangeness of genius. Socrates may have begun it, when he convinced the young that he possessed a “demon” and went into trances therewith. Aristotle claimed that “men illustrious in poetry, politics, and the arts have often been melancholic and mad.” Such views descending through Roman times (Seneca), and epitomized in Dryden’s oft-quoted couplet :
Great wits are sure to madness near allied
And thin partitions do their bounds divide
linger also, as speculation, in more recent writings on genius by Havelock Ellis, Galton, Lombroso, Hirsch, Kretschmer, and many others. One is forced to repeat that much of this identification springs from the ever-blooming logical fallacy that if genius is odd, oddity is genius. Careful biographical research does not support this contention ; the genius may be neurotic, partly because of the stress of his loneliness or rejection;’ but the incidence of mental ill health and psychosis is actually below normal in the ranks of the creators.
The variety of ideas about the causes of creativity in genius are endless, ranging from Moorman’s (1940) theory of germ stimulation by tuberculosis (Voltaire, R. L. Stevenson, Bashkirtseff, Keats, Shelley, Sidney Lanier, Hood, Bessemer, Schiller, and others), to Lombroso’s “equivalent to crime,” to Kretschmer’s “warring heredities,” to Adler’s overcompensation for inferiority, and even to Freud’s “evasion of reality.”
The modern and quantitative study of genius can be said to begin with Galton (1870), who stressed the centrality of sheer g, and demonstrated the substantial hereditary connections of that g. Havelock Ellis may be said to have added the importance of temperament, in his finding from statistical analyses in the National Portrait Gallery (unfortunately not since followed up) that in Britain the Nordic strain (Newton, Kelvin, Edison, Rutherford) expressed itself in mathematics and science, and the Celtic strain (dark-eyed and haired) in religion, history, and verbalsocial skills. Kretschmer (1931) followed Nietzsche (“Where is the madness with which you should be inoculated?”) and the Greeks in believing that there must be some element of the fanatic in genius. He stressed hybridization of talented races, and, (as followed up later by Sheldon) the importance of temperament, rooted in body build, in deciding the direction of expression, here reaching views essentially consistent with those of Havelock Ellis.
More careful documentation followed, in this tradition, in the work of Cox and Terman (1926), who studied 301 men of genius from the past, and then in Terman (1925) who began that monumental follow-up of children actually selected by intelligence tests to lie within the top 1 % of the ability range. The former study fully confirmed the general emphasis by Galton on high absolute magnitude of general intelligence in geniuses. When rated by independent judges operating on childhood biographical data, 84% of the 301 geniuses received, by modern I.Q. standards (sigma = 15 to 16), I.Q.’s of 120 or more, and 21 % of 150 or more. Additionally, Catherine Cox (1926, Vol. 2, p. 218) called attention to the pervasive frequency of “persistence of motive and effort, confidence in their abilities and great strength or force of character,” which Galton has also commented on as “great energy and zeal.”
From there, the chief developments have been studies on living subjects : (a) of abilities other than general intelligence, by Guilford, Merrifield, and a group of able associates (1961); (b) of the criterion of creative performance in life, by Calvin Taylor and his associates (1963), Barron (1963) and others; and (c) of personality and motivation, in terms of modern, measurable dimensions by Cattell and Drevdahl (1955), Cox (1926), Drevdahl and Cattell (1939, Jones (1959), Sprecher (1959) and others. The second of these lines of research is vitally necessary, for until we know how the actual criteria correlate we do not know whether we are trying to predict one thing or several. Taylor’s work shows definitely that among scientists in industry the publication of research articles, the number of patents obtained, etc., are different from and little correlated with the evaluation by peers and supervisors. The personality analyses (in this field and by Lowell Kelly in medical research) give a clue to this discrepancy between criteria, because they show that creative persons are apt to be unpopular. Incidentally, finding firm criteria is the toughest part of this area of research. It is not an intellectually defensible escape from this problem of an objective criterion of creativity to say it cannot be documented and must rest on ratings. For “ratings” are merely personal opinions, changing with the cultural affiliations, intelligence, etc., of the rater.
This issue also affects the approach to creativity by measures other than intelligence. Guilford and his co-workers who have gone to abilities beyond intelligence, nevertheless have defined creativity in the test performance itself, instead of by some life criterion through which the designation of a test as a “creativity” measure could be validated. The result is that the verdict that a test measures creativity is only a projection of the test constructor’s personal view about what creativity is. Thus in the intellectual tests designed by Guilford’s students, and many others who have worked on creativity in this decade, creativity has finished up by being evaluated simply as oddity or bizarreness of response relative to the population mean or as output of words per minute, etc. This indeed comes close to mistaking the shadow for the substance. Mere unusualness, without adaptive value, is, as Eysenck shows (1957) actually a good measure of psychopathy or neuroticism, not creativity. Again one must repeat that many creative products are odd ; but oddity is not creativity. For some, additional, vital condition must be met by the latter.
Of course, in the last resort, a similar charge of circularity could be brought also with regard to intelligence, if Galton, Terman, and others had not located their geniuses first and afterward evaluated their intelligence. Terman found, as we have seen, that geniuses of the past, vindicated by history, were generally of exceptionally high intelligence. But this makes intelligence only a necessary, not a sufficient condition. It was only when Terman came to his study of living children of high intelligence and allowed it to be called a study of genius that a doubtful logical assumption crept in. A writer can be the victim of his readers, and in this case perhaps the mistake is in assuming that Terman intended that the label “genius” apply to these bright individuals before later life performances had confirmed their status. Another instance of this dictatorship of the follower may’ have occurred in the followers of Guilford, whose emphasis on abilities other than intelligence has become for the moment the popular view that intelligence is unnecessary! It remains true, as Burt (1967), Butcher (1969), Thorndike (1943), and Vernon (1960) have reminded neophytes in the field, that general intelligence is still the main essential ability (apart from personality traits) and that the one, sure, common feature of many and varied tests of creativity is their high “g” saturation. As Burt has pointed out : “the new tests for creativity would form very satisfactory additions to any ordinary battery for testing the general factor of intelligence.”
2. Some ability and personality associates of high creativity
If, as suggested above, we stand by actual 1ife performance (rather than performance in a two-hour test of artificial “creativity measures”) as the necessary criterion, then - after intelligence - the most important determiners are unquestionably personality factors. Biographical studies by Roe (1953), Barron (1963), the present writer (1963b) and especially Drevdahl and Cattell (1958) agree with the view inherent in Havelock Ellis, Kretschmer, Terman, Galton, and other shrewd observers that the creative person does possess, over and above intelligence, some very characteristic personality qualities. These may or may not be considered healthy, normal qualities - this is often a matter of values - but the psychologist today can at least analyze them as meaningful source traits which point to clear theories of causal action.
Without space to present separately the profiles from the various personality factor surveys of highly creative people in physical science, biology, psychology, art, and literature (see Cattell and Drevdahl, 1955 ; Drevdahl and Cattell, 1958) - which, incidentally, agree amazingly well, considering the diversity of interest of the groups - we present in fig. 13.1 the composite, central profile found. Its greatest deviations from the average are (apart from intelligence) on high self-sufficiency, introversion, dominance, and desurgency.
The selection of outstandingly creative individuals was made in these cases by committees of peers, and is thus, in essence, the same as, say, a Nobel prize selection procedure. It differs from direct personality rating in that is is made with documents and productions. In the case of the common (three area) scientist’s profile the raters also were asked to contrast their choices with choices of equally academically distinguished men (administrators and teachers) not creatively gifted. Since abbreviated discussion most easily proceeds with the broader second-stratum level of personality factors (though the more accurate prediction and understanding rest on the primaries), we may point out that at a rough glance these people would be described as introverts (second-order Factor I). They also show high self-sufficiency and dominance in the primaries. Both the intensive biographical researches of Anne Roe (1953) and the more discursive biographical survey by the present writer (1963b) strongly support the main conclusions of these systematic test results. Cavendish hiding from society in a remote wing of his mansion, Newton forever wandering on “strange seas of thought, alone,” Einstein remote in the patent office library, Darwin taking his solitary walks in the woods? at Down - these are the epitome of the way of life of the creative person. If this introversion and intensity is the essence, it is easy to see why a committedly extravert, impulsive and casual society has had to begin frantically chasing - and vulgarizing - creativity over the last decade.
In this latter connection let us note that acceptance of the idea that measures of fluency are measures of a creative ability has led to generalizations to the effect that the temperamental and personality associations of fluency are conditions of creativity. Thus, inferences drawn from the empirical research of Getzels and Jackson (1962), for example, (who used certain tests from the Objective-Analytic Personality Factor Battery, but not enough to measure any one factor) and the theorizing of Maslow (1954), have led to the picture of the creative person as an incontinent, unrestrained, over-self-expressive individual. In the latter's descriptions of the self-actualizing personality, one scarcely can escape the impression that, without some daily assault upon convention, such a personality feels futile. ...
[See also: Giftedness and Genius: Crucial Differences; John Cleese on Creativity;]
[See also: Giftedness and Genius: Crucial Differences; John Cleese on Creativity;]