Professor George Land gives an inspiring TED talk into his research of creativity in children and adults, with some shocking findings about how creativity levels change throughout a child’s life.

Watch the video above, and then see the discussion below.

The nature vs nurture debate is one that is ongoing and many studies have been conducted around it. One famous one is George Land’s Creativity Test, which he outlines in his new book Breakpoint and Beyond.

In 1968, George Land (with Beth Jarman) conducted a research study to test the creativity of 1,600 children ranging in ages from three-to-five years old who were enrolled in a Head Start program. This was the same creativity test he devised for NASA to help select innovative engineers and scientists. The assessment worked so well he decided to try it on children. He re-tested the same children at 10 years of age, and again at 15 years of age (a longitudinal study).

The test was to look at a problem and come up with new, different, innovative ideas

george land creativity study idea to valueThe results were astounding. The proportion of people who scored at the “Genius Level”, were:

  • amongst 5 year olds: 98%
  • amongst 10 year olds: 30%
  • amongst 15 year olds: 12%
  • Same test given to 280,000 adults (average age of 31): 2%

According to Land, the primary reason for this is that there are two types of thinking processes when it comes to creativity:

  1. Convergent thinking: where you judge ideas, criticise them, refine them, combine them and improve them, all of which happens in your conscious thought
  2. Divergent thinking: where you imagine new ideas, original ones which are different from what has come before but which may be rough to start with, and which often happens subconsciously

He notes that throughout school, we are teaching children to try and use both kinds of thinking at the same time, which is impossible.

Competing neurons in the brain will be fighting each other, and it is as if your mind is having a shouting match with itself.

Instead of this, Land suggests we need to allow people to split their thinking processes into the various different states, to make each of them more effective.

It’s something which all of my own learning strongly correlates with as well, and which I speak about in my own lectures.

So if you want your child to retain their ability and desire to be creative, encourage them to let their mind run free while they come up with ideas, and only afterwards to sit down, evaluate them and start working on the ones they think are the best.

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