Sunday, November 13, 2011

Artists, Nuclear Reactors, and Associates

I see myself as an artist.  I like to compare my personality -- my artistic temperament -- to a nuclear reactor.  The nuclear reactor contains a quantity of controllable radioactive material that in ordinary circumstances would pose a hazard to the environment.  But the reactor is a sturdy structure that contains the radioactive core, preventing the hazardous material from escaping or causing an explosion.  The durable housing of the reactor enables the radioactive material to serve as a resource that can be channeled to a useful purpose.

The late Frank Barron, an expert in creativity studies, referred to "controllable oddness" as a resource in creativity.  An oddness in thought or feeling, in his view, combines with an ability to reconsider and reformulate to produce a "socially communicable original meaning."  David Schuldberg likewise believes that the critical factor that differentiates genius from madness may be ego strength.

A study was conducted to examine the joint influence of psychosis-proneness and ego strength on creativity in college students. Psychosis-proneness and ego strength were defined psychometrically by means of Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory and California Psychological Inventory Profile, a procedure that resulted in four categories of research subjects: (1) psychosis-prone, high ego strength, (2) psychosis-prone, low ego strength, (3) not psychosis-prone, high ego strength, and (4) not psychosis prone, low ego strength. As predicted, psychosis-prone persons who were high in ego strength exhibited the highest level of evaluated creativity in their proposed solutions to an engineering problem and also the highest score on the Remote Associates Test.

The Remote Associates Test (known as the RAT) was developed by Martha Mednick in 1962 to test creativity. However, it has recently been utilized in insight research.  The test consists of presenting participants with a set of words, such as lick, mine, and shaker. The task is to identify the word that connects these three seemingly unrelated ones. In this example, the answer is salt. The link between words is associative, and does not follow rules of logic, concept formation or problem solving, and thus requires the respondent to work outside of these common heuristical constraints.  Performance on the RAT is known to correlate with performance on other standard insight problems.

As I like to say, a person should never be too sane or too crazy!  I have a law degree, but most law firms would never offer me an associates position.  I appear too unstable.


Gary Freedman said...

At GW I was diagnosed as bi-polar because supposedly I showed loose associations and flight of ideas. Perhaps, what the psychiatrist perceived were remote associations, which he proceeded to misidentify.

Gary Freedman said...

Here are some characteristics that differentiate the more creative individual from the less creative:

* He is more observant and perceptive, and he puts a high value on independent "true-to-himself" perception. He perceives things the way other people do but also the way others do not.

* He is more independent in his judgments, and his self-directed behavior is determined by his own set of values and ethical standards.

* He balks at group standards, pressures to conform and external controls. He asserts his independence without being hostile or aggressive, and he speaks his mind without being domineering. If need be, he is flexible enough to simulate the prevailing norms of cultural and organizational behavior.

* He dislikes policing himself and others; he does not like to be bossed around. He can readily entertain impulses and ideas that are commonly considered taboo; he has a spirit of adventure.

* He is highly individualistic and non-conventional in a constructive manner. Psychologist Donald W. MacKinnon puts it this way: "Although independent in thought and action, the creative person does not make a show of his independence; he does not do the off-beat thing narcissistically, that is, to call attention to himself. ... He is not a deliberate nonconformist but a geniunely independent and autonomous person."

* He has wide interests and multiple potentials--sufficient to succeed in several careers.

* He is constitutionally more energetic and vigorous and, when creatively engaged, can marshal an exceptional fund of psychic and physical energy.

* He is less anxious and possesses greater stability.

* His complex personality is, simultaneously, more primitive and more cultured, more destructive and more constructive, crazier and saner. He has a greater appreciation and acceptance of the nonrational elements in himself and others.

* He is willing to entertain and express personal impulses, and pays more attention to his "inner voices." He likes to see himself as being different from others, and he has greater self-acceptance.

* He has strong aesthetic drive and sensitivity, and a greater interest in the artistic and aesthetic fields. He prefers to order the forms of his own experience aesthetically, and the solutions at which he arrives must not only be creative, but elegant.

* Truth for him has to be clothed in beauty to make it attractive.

* He searches for philosophical meanings and theoretical constructs and tends to prefer working with ideas, in contradistinction to the less creative who prefer to deal with the practical and concrete.

* He has a greater need for variety and is almost insatiable for intellectual ordering and comprehension.

* He places great value on humor of the philosophical sort and possesses a unique sense of humor.

* He regards authority as arbitrary, contingent on continued and demonstrable superiority. When evaluating communications, he separates source from content, judges and reaches conclusions based on the information itself, rather than whether the information source was an "authority" or an "expert."

Gary Freedman said...

The psychological test report prepared by GW contained no reference to my ego strength (Es) score:

My test results can be accessed from the following site:

Gary Freedman said...

During a 1979 discussion of his work, Barron cited a willingness to take risks as a common characteristic among highly creative individuals: "Creativity requires taking what Einstein called 'a leap into the unknown.' This can mean putting your beliefs, reputation, and resources on the line as you suffer the slings and arrows of ridicule." Barron went on to note: "Other common attributes are a strong motivation to bring order and definition to the world, as well as independent judgment. Creative people are able to go against the mainstream. While in many ways they can be quite conventional, they tend to rebel against conformity as they accompany their own private visions down lonely, untrod paths."