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by Paul Henrickson, Ph.D. © 2004
tm. © 2007
In the Spring of 2004 I had the interesting experience of administering a set of verbal and a set of no-verbal creativity tasks that I had devised while a research assistant (1960-1961) to Dr. E. Paul Torrance (Bureau of Educational Research, University of Minnesota) to approximately 160 elementary school children. Over the past 40 years these creativity tasks had been used by myself and a very few other experimental psychologists, in some cases as a means of enriching other research programs. The University of Northern Iowa, The University of Radford in Radford, Virginia, The University of Georgia were cases in point. Other, more demanding, responsibilities in other places required me to place these informative tasks to the side until now. It is probably just as well as the need for the information to be gained from their administration is even greater now than it was earlier. It is important to stress that the information to be gained from these creativity tasks relates to modes of thinking that differ markedly from those generally supported in most schools, that is, these tasks invite diverse responses to the creation of a functional reality. To put that observation more graphically, it might be said that the puddle I play in may not be the puddle you play in, but we both get wet. After we finish playing and walk home together for lunch we can still talk about our experiences and build on the process of awareness. There were two creativity tasks involved. The Creativity Design Task (CDT) and The Just Suppose Task (JST). The CDT is a non-verbal task and the JST is a verbal task. My purpose in making this report is to disseminate as widely as possible the results of administering these tasks to a group of elementary school children, boys and girls, ranging in age from 5 years to eleven. These subjects might be described further as children involved in a school environment that stressed accomplishment in achieving results in predetermined areas of social and academic behavior. The desire for adult approval among the students was remarkable in that in few ways would they express a desire to or an interest in following their own intuitions. Actually, this particular school is not unique in that way as these forms of ethical behavior are stressed in this society at all levels and in all ways more than in many other societies I’ve known. Significantly enough, this sort of control over social behavior of all sorts and on all levels has had an interesting effect upon the ways and manner of achieving private goals and circumventing existing convention while maintaining the appearance of social conformity.
Having said all that I must, in order to clarify a point, and to give credit where credit is due, state that the social structure within which most activity is regulated did not inhibit my decision-making process or exert controls over my interpretation. Where there was evidence of cooperation there was as well a willingness to follow through with accepted responsibilities and for this I owe my gratitude to the Director of Education for the area and most especially to the headmistress of the elementary school involved. Both of these individuals as well as the teachers involved were unfamiliar with the goals and the methods of achieving them and trusted to my good will, honesty and professional acumen to prevail. What came to me as a surprise was the striking unfamiliarity, which surrounded my statements and my procedures. In all other instances of my having used these creativity tasks I had been in an environment, which had been much, more familiar with the open-ended research approach. If, in this present experiment, my approach had confused anyone they endured their confusion stoically. I also wish to thank those who had helped me in the administration of these tasks including Marita Mejlak, Patricia Prescott, Coronato Vella and William Driscoll for their, truly, invaluable, contributions. As indicated above the administration of the CDT and JST tasks was accomplished with approximately 162 subjects. The subjects were elementary school boys and girls between the ages of 5 and eleven years. The administration of the tasks took place over a four-week period during the Friday afternoon “experimental” free time period. This is one hour a week at the end of a week otherwise devoted to the academic subjects of Religion, Maltese, English, Math, and Social Studies. It will be of help, I believe, if I first describe the creativity tasks used in this study. THE CREATIVITY DESIGN TASK is a non-verbal task which is comprised of a six page task booklet and a standard number of pieces triangles, squares, circles and long rectangles measuring approximately ¼” by 3” of colored paper in red, green and gray. The subjects are encouraged/allowed to alter any of these shapes in anyway they choose with whatever materials or tools are at hand, be they scissors, crayons, pencils and the like. The subjects were instructed to make as many designs as they wished in the thirty minutes allowed. The CREATIVITY DESIGN TASK was scored along the following criteria: fluency, flexibility, manipulation, hi-manipulation, elaboration and aesthetic appeal. The first five measures are fairly well standardized with the application of scoring guidelines. The measure of “aesthetic appeal” was in this instance and in earlier experimental situations standardized to the extent that the judges have always been of professional standing in the field of graphic arts. This writer is aware that this concept (the concept of expert opinion) could be further explored on its own with interesting results. The writer is also aware that the concept of standardizing aesthetic judgments has its intellectual pitfalls but in this and similar experiments, the parameters and limitations of a scientific approach have been accepted.
The JUST SUPPOSE TASK was a verbal task, which presented to the subjects the challenge of responding to improbable situations. The improbable situations in this instance were: JUST SUPOSE: all the water around Gozo would stand still. What might be the result? you were to be left alone on Fifla island with only a dog, a cat, and a lizard. What would be the consequences? all the cars and trucks on Gozo would disappear. What might be the result? everything in the world, the people, trees, animals, books, turned into numbers. What might be the consequences? that the end of the rainbow could be found in Calypso’s cave. What would be the consequences? just suppose boys were red in color and girls were green . What would be the result? The subjects were allowed five minutes to respond to each of these improbable situations with as many ideas as they might manage and were told that spelling was not, in this case, important, and they could respond in either Maltese or English which ever they preferred. INTERNAL ANALYSES OF THE CREATIVITY TASKS CDT analysis: In addition to the factor of aesthetic judgment measure which was an external factor applied to products of the CDT the five measures which were a part of the internal structure of the CDT were: fluency, flexibility, manipulation, hi-manipulation, and elaboration. “Fluency” was the sheer number of designs produced; “flexibility” was the measure of a shift in the character of the design; “manipulation” was the evidence of the number of actions taken to modify the raw material (the colored geometric shapes); “hi-manipulation” was the score of the one product with the highest number of evidences; “elaboration” was the score on playing with variations of a graphic concept. JST analysis:
The Just Suppose Task (JST) was comprised of six pages in booklet form with one of each of six improbable situations at the head of each page with the question following which asked: “what might be the results, or consequences”. The subjects were asked to write down as many ideas as they could within the five minutes allotted for each of the situations. The measures from this task which were recorded were: “fluency”, “negativity”, “positive responses”, and “originality”. “Fluency” was the simple measure of the number of responses recorded. “Negativity” was the count of responses indicating fear, dislike, disapproval and the like. “Positive responses” were responses indicating approval, agreement, an ability to deal with the situation and the like. “Originality” was arrived at by listing the numbers of times a statement might appear in the booklets and arranging those statements along a normal bell curve, or something close to one and selecting from the group that group that represented about 5% of the least frequently appearing responses. There would be one count for one such response. REPORT OF COEFICIENTS OF CORRELATION: CDT: cc(N=81) Fluency r. flexibility = 0.66 Fluency r. manipulation = 0.39 Fluency r. Hi-manipulation = 0.37 Fluency r. elaboration = 0.31 Flexibility r. manipulation Flexibility r. Hi-Man Flexibility r. elaboration Manipulation r. Hi-Man Hi-Man r. elaboration Aesthetic r. fluency Aesthetic r. flexibility Aesthetic r. manipulation Aesthetic r. Hi-Man Aesthetic r. elaboration DISCUSSION = 0.27 = 0.20 = 0.31 = 0.49 = 0.09 JST * Fluency r. negativity Fluency r. positive Fluency r. originality Negativity r. positive Negativity r. originality Positive r. originality cc(N=72) = 0.60 = 0.82 = 0.32 = 0.03 =0.19 =0.26 cc(N=26) =0.70 =0.76 =0.64 =0.21 =0.38 =0.57
JST** Fluency r. negativity Fluency r. positive Fluency r. originality = 0.27 Negativity r. positive = 0.22 Negativity r. originality = -0.13 Positive r. originality = 0.09 = 0.04
The above analysis follows, in general, the results obtained in earlier research projects with one remarkable exception. To begin the discussion, let us first identify the non-surprises. In both the CDT and the JST tasks all measures depend on the “fluency” measure which is a simple measure of response. No response, no measurement! It is, therefore, reasonable to expect CDT measures such as flexibility, manipulation, Himanipulation and elaboration to be positively related to fluency and JST measures such as negativity, positive and originality also to be positively related. It is consistent with earlier studies, as well, that the measures of originality in the JST task are more highly and positively related to the positive measure than they are to the negativity measure. This we see is consistent in both JST sets, one with an N of 26, the other with an N of 72. The reason why the two sets differ may be explained by the fact that the larger “N” contained more of the younger children than did the “N” 26 set. It must be remembered that the JST task is a verbal task and the educational system here stresses verbal expression in at least two languages, Maltese and English as well as, maybe, three, four or five languages, Italian, French and German, depending upon the level and the educational focus. The startling result of a negative, -0.13, correlation between the aesthetic measure and manipulation came as a complete surprise. All other administrations of the CDT task that I know about the correlation were positive and relatively high. Although the relationship between manipulation and Hi-manipulation remains the same i.e., “Hi-manipulation” is dependant upon “manipulation” in that it identifies the one work that has the highest “manipulation” score and that its correlation with the “aesthetic” score is both higher and in the positive direction than the correlation between “aesthetic” and “manipulation”. This suggests, of course, consistent with earlier studies, that those works judged to have “aesthetic” appeal are works that have been more highly manipulated. The implication of this finding should be of interest to art critics if not art historians. In this administration as in earlier administrations this relationship has remained fairly constant suggesting that this group does not differ in character from earlier groups but only in degree. However, it is an important degree. In earlier groups there had been several judges of aesthetic value, in this group there was only one. Our familiarity with other and available judges did not allow us to use more than the one we did. In past administrations of the CDT judges of aesthetic value would differ from each other but in the over all their perceptions were relatively consistent. It should be noted, however, that these perceptions are the results of education, exposure, and experience. The judge we used in this instance was born near Boston, Massachusetts is a graduate of Harvard University, a practicing artist and a linguist with commands of over 14 languages including
ancient and modern Greek, Latin and Sanscript, a more competent judge would be difficult to locate. Another possible explanation for this surprising negative relationship between “manipulation” and “aesthetic” appeal comes to our attention with the fact of the contemporary “art scene” here being characterized by perhaps more art activity taking place in this community than in others of comparable size (30,000) the quality of that activity is not well informed. The most advanced expressions in the area of the graphic arts remains, by and large, at the same level as the analytical cubists of nearly a century ago. This statement is not meant to imply that change for change sake is an acceptable goal, but to ignore the legitimate developments in the graphic arts seems somehow, to miss the point of their existence. As extension of this interpretation might be that the contemporary artists here have failed to perform their function as exponents of the cultural “cutting edge” and perceptive critics have failed to bridge the gap between the creative artist and the consuming community. Consequently educational leaders have failed to be informed. At the root of this description is an awareness of the possibility of the influence of cultural institutions and historical experiences. For centuries this population has been enslaved, feudalized and ruled by occupiers and have had little, if any, experience in ruling themselves. The three main supports for social dignity and self-respect are education (by rote), noble heritage (through illegitimate associations), and wealth (by deception). These sad comments are made for one purpose only, to stress the significant difference in approach to social and personal respect which performances on the CDT and the JST underscore. One cannot do well on these tasks and be dishonest to one’s legitimate perceptions. Trust in one’s individuated decisions is essential as is an openness to experience and a willingness to self-correct, advance, change, progress. One can hardly avoid remarking upon the intense conservatism buttressed by the masks of social pretense, the sensitivity to disparagement, attachment to perceived “correctness”, and the intolerance toward error. Guilt walks like some corporeal being and defends perceived assaults with vain pride and paper-tigering. This form of insularism has, perhaps, found its ultimate expression in physical disorders such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and serious depression which strikes the young and adventurous who yearn to leave and those who have reached their sixties and yearn to die; and in social disorders such as an illogical but distinct hierarchy of professional, political, and educational importance. As some German visitors remarked: volksverblodung in describing the functioning mindset; and one American surprised a bank president with the question: “Why do so many here seem so uncertain as to who they are and their worth as human beings that they
seek recourse in cheating?” Perhaps the school custom of not identifying students by name, but by number, as a means of protecting the child from potential otherfamily reprisals is an expression of this as well. This last custom had caused me considerable difficulty since having experienced several normally unnecessary delays amounting to nearly a year made the identification of the tasks somewhat dicey. The importance of being able to identify the creative minds in one’s environment rests on the understanding that it is those minds that may be able to determine the degree of success in surviving until tomorrow. Considerable stress has been placed on the importance to the worlds of business and economics of developing and maintaining a creative mindset yet, I know of no assistance being offered those enterprises among the numerous programs available through, for example, the internet, that points out the repressions creative minds endure culturally, socially, politically, economically. Nor have any of these programs, to my knowledge, offered assistance to business and government to identify the hidden creative talents in their midst. The one exception to this statement is that which is offered through The Creativity Packet (www.tcp.com.mt) which uses as its foundation both the CDT and the JST and a few more tasks. What these creativity tasks are designed to accomplish is to cultivate the mindset better able to flexibly select or devise the most appropriate course of action in meeting the challenges of future problems. Practice in creative thinking has not characterized most school situations and this author realizes that it stands in direct opposition to the general consensus that the best way to teach is by authority, that is authoritative, rote, repetitive responses. The results of this pilot study suggests that at least in one school in this community of 30,000 the curriculum available and the methods of offering it should be radically changed to give as much emphasis to the investigative creative approach as to the traditional.