Creativity researcher and author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes a number of pairs of “paradoxical” traits exhibited by creative people, such as both convergent and divergent thinking; extroverted and introverted; humble and proud.
“If there is one word that makes creative people different from others, it is the word complexity. Instead of being an individual, they are a multitude.”
See my post The The Complex Personality of Creative People and my SlideShare presentation below.
In his book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention he makes some interesting comments about evaluating artists using projective tests like the Rorschach (ink blot) or the Thematic Apperception Test.
For example, he found that more creative artists “gave responses that were definitely more original, with unusual, colorful, detailed elements.” See my post The Creative Personality: Imagination and Grounded Reality for more.
The image is from the Wikipedia page Rorschach test – which notes “Some psychologists use this test to examine a person’s personality characteristics and emotional functioning…
“Using interpretation of “ambiguous designs” to assess an individual’s personality is an idea that goes back to Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli.”
Not all mental health professionals consider this test useful or valid:
“Scott Lilienfeld, an associate professor of psychology at Emory University and co-author of the 2003 book ‘What’s Wrong with the Rorschach?’ is one of many psychologists who doubts the validity of the test.”
From article Rorschach Test: Discredited But Still Controversial By Benjamin Radford, Live Science Contributor | July 31, 2009.
There are examples of people changing qualities of their personalities, often dramatically, after an experience such as an organ transplant, brain injury or ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) for depression – see the Psych Central post ECT: The Electric Personality Change By Ronald Pies, M.D.
But it seems to me that for most of us, our personality is more fixed than fluid.
Still, we can become more aware of traits associated with creative people, and perhaps make better use of the ones we have that could enhance our creativity.
In addition to multiple posts on The Creative Mind site on the subject, here are a few selected articles about personality traits associated with creative people.
Follow the title links to see full articles.
By Hanna Vock, Anja Kintscher and Heike Brandt. We consider creativity a significant part of giftedness.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (for his book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention) interviewed numerous very successful creative people and had them describe what drives them and what they feel when working…
[He writes] “If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, it would be complexity. (…) They contain contradictory extremes (…) usually we are trained to develop only one pole of a dialectic.” (p.57)
In his book Einstein: A Biography, the author Jurgen Neffe writes about ”an extremely broad range of character“:
“A man, bourgeois and bohemian, superman and misbehaved child, all in one person… a friend to one, an enemy to another, a narcissist ignoring his outer appearance, a sonnyboy and a rebel, a philanthropist and autistic individual, a globetrotter and a hermit, a pacifist and a scientist for the military.”
Professor Øyvind L. Martinsen at BI Norwegian Business School has conducted a study to develop a personality profile for creative people…
In his study Martinsen identifies seven paramount personality traits that characterise creative people:
- Associative orientation: Imaginative, playful, have a wealth of ideas, ability to be committed, sliding transitions between fact and fiction.
- Need for originality: Resists rules and conventions. Have a rebellious attitude due to a need to do things no one else does.
- Motivation: Have a need to perform, goal-oriented, innovative attitude, stamina to tackle difficult issues. [etc]
By Wendy McCance. I have often wondered if extremely successful creative types fell under a certain type of personality. … I have read up on what some of the most creative people were like and I have to say, it does seem that most of these highly creative people were introverts.
It’s comforting to know that not only have I found my passion for writing, but it seems that my personality type makes writing a good fit.
The Center for Creative Intelligence is established upon the understanding that highly creative people are often set apart by similar characteristics and experiential themes that are frequently overlooked:
1. Highly creative individuals can usually be identified by the existence of a specific cluster of innate aptitudes:
- High ideaphoria – a naturally rapid flow of ideas;
- Divergent thinking – a natural inclination for simultaneous and multifaceted thinking, used in conjunction with linear thinking;
- Acute sensory skills – in one or more of the five senses, most often exhibited in terms of having strong sensitivities to light, sound or visual images;
- Strong intuitive capabilities – the experience of ‘knowing’ something is true and being highly accurate without relying on concrete, factual information, or as C.G. Jung would say, “direct perception through the unconscious.”
- Analytically–heightened consciousness – great clarity, accuracy and precision in thought and language;
- Empathically–heightened consciousness – an acute awareness and understanding of one’s own feelings as they occur and the ability to be highly attuned to the emotions of others, accompanied by an innate capacity to experience one’s emotional life to great depth along with a values-centered awareness.
These aptitudes, when experienced in combination, give rise to creative intelligence – a superior talent for making meaningful connections, even among seemingly unrelated elements and in so doing, bring forth new and valuable ideas, discoveries, inventions and works of art into one or more pre-existing or even new domains.
Creative aptitudes can be experienced as both gift and challenge.
Specific challenges usually correlate with specific aptitudes. This phenomenon may be considered the ‘double-edged sword’ experience that accompanies the existence of creative aptitudes.
Creative aptitudes often remain hidden beneath an easily recognized problem in daily life. Some problems are actual challenges posed by creative abilities, while others exist ‘in the eye of the beholder.’
While everyone is usually aware of the problem, whether actual or ascribed, the ability may remain indefinitely obscured, especially when it is only viewed as a ‘problem to be corrected,’ i.e., being seen as “too sensitive,” “too much of a perfectionist,” and so forth.
Within the experience of creative abilities exists an apparent paradox. We may flow with complex ideas and concepts in a relatively effortless manner, yet experience more difficulty with routine tasks and the tangible sides of life.
We feel a certain amount of confusion about why this is so, since we know that such ordinary, concrete tasks are not objectively difficult.
By Melanie L. Beaussart, Scott Barry Kaufman, and James C. Kaufman
It has been argued that creativity evolved, at least in part, through sexual selection to attract mates. Recent research lends support to this view and has also demonstrated a link between certain dimensions of schizotypy, creativity, and short-term mating.
The current study delves deeper into these relationships by focusing on engagement in creative activity and employing an expansive set of personality and mental health measures…
One roadblock that prevents many people from boosting their creativity is the notion that creativity is linked to intelligence. Another roadblock is the idea that creative people are born that way.
So if you’re not super smart or born with the creative “gift,” the natural reaction is to shrug your shoulders and give up. That’s probably a bad move.
Research shows that once you get slightly above an average I.Q., intelligence and creativity are not related. So you could be a genius and display little creativity or have fairly average intelligence and wield amazing creative powers.
And to a large degree, creativity is a learned behavior. It’s a matter of how you approach things, how you act or react to new circumstances, your proclivity to look at things in different ways, your willingness to question, experiment, and take chances. In other words, creativity is not “what you are” as much as “what you do.”
The Complexity of the Creative Personality
One of my SlideShare presentations.
You can also see several of them, plus notes and links, on the page
Creative People: Personality and Mental Health
Finally, here is a helpful reminder about creative “traits” or “types” – a perspective which relates to the topic of creativity myths.
From the book: Creative People Must Be Stopped: 6 Ways We Kill Innovation (Without Even Trying) by David A Owens:
“…there is no such thing as a creative personality… At least, creativity is not a fundamental attribute of ‘personality’ in the technical sense that psychologists reserve for those core behavioral tendencies that are relatively stable over time, such as how introverted or extroverted we are…
“Research suggests that our habits of perception and thinking drive creativity more than some mysterious genetic trait – and habits are things we can do something about.”
[Also see my post Myths of Creativity and Creators – How They Hold Us Back.]