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Creativity Tests

social perception attitudes and behavior thinking divergent creative measure

Tests designed to measure creativity in children or adults.

Creativity tests, mostly devised during the past 30 years, are aimed at assessing the qualities and abilities that constitute creativity. These tests evaluate mental abilities in ways that are different from—and even diametrically opposed to—conventional intelligence tests. Because the kinds of abilities measured by creativity tests differ from those measured by intelligence quotient (IQ) tests, persons with the highest scores on creativity tests do not necessarily have the highest IQs. Creative people tend to have IQs that are at least average if not above average, but beyond a score of 120 there is little correlation between performance on intelligence and creativity tests.

Most creativity tests in use today are based at least partially on the theory of creativity evolved by J.P. Guilford in the 1950s. Guilford posited that the ability to envision multiple solutions to a problem lay at the core of creativity. He called this process divergent thinking and its opposite—the tendency to narrow all options to a single solution—convergent thinking. Guilford identified three components of divergent thinking: fluency (the ability to quickly find multiple solutions to a problem); flexibility (being able to simultaneously consider a variety of alternatives); and originality (referring to ideas that differ from those of other people). Early tests designed to assess an individual's aptitude for divergent thinking included the Torrance (1962) and Meeker (1969) tests.

The most extensive work on divergent thinking was done under Guilford's direction at the University of Southern California by the Aptitudes Research Project (ARP), whose findings between the 1950s and 1970s produced a broad structure-of-intellect (SI) model which encompassed all intellectual functions, including divergent thinking. A number of the ARP divergent thinking tests, which were originally devised as research instruments for the study of creativity, have been adapted by a variety of testing companies for use by educators in placing gifted students and evaluating gifted and talented programs. The ARP tests are divided into verbal and figural categories. Those that measure verbal ability include:

  • Word fluency : writing words containing a given letter
  • Ideational fluency: naming things that belong to a given class (i.e., fluids that will burn)
  • Associational fluency: writing synonyms for a specified word
  • Expressional fluency: writing four-word sentences in which each word begins with a specified letter
  • Alternate uses: listing as many uses as possible for a given object
  • Plot titles: writing titles for short-story plots
  • Consequences: listing consequences for a hypothetical event ("What if no one needed to sleep?")
  • Possible jobs: list all jobs that might be symbolized by a given emblem.

The figural ARP tests, which measure spatial aptitude, include the following:

  • Making objects: drawing specified objects using only a given set of shapes, such as a circle, square, etc.
  • Sketches: elaborating on a given figure to produce sketches of recognizable items
  • Match problems: removing a specified number of matchsticks from a diagram to produce a specified number of geometric shapes
  • Decorations: using as many different designs as possible to outline drawings of common objects.

Divergent thinking tests are generally evaluated based on the number and variety of answers provided; the originality of the answers; and the amount of detail they contain (a characteristic referred to as elaboration). A number of creativity tests currently in use include sections that measure divergent thinking.

Rather than ways of thinking, some creativity tests evaluate attitudes, behavior, creative perception, or creative activity. Some creativity tests specifically address the problem of assessing creativity in minority populations, who are at a disadvantage in tests that place a strong emphasis on verbal and semantic ability. The Eby Gifted Behavior Index reflects the growing view of creativity as specific to different domains. It is divided into six talent fields: verbal, social/leadership, visual/spatial, math/science problem-solving, mechanical/technical, and musical. The Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal is a more analytical assessment of giftedness based on five components of critical thinking: inference, deduction, interpretation, awareness of assumptions, and evaluation of arguments.

Creativity tests have been found reliable in the sense that one person's scores tend to remain similar across a variety of tests. However, their validity has been questioned in terms of their ability to predict the true creative potential of those who take them. In one study, there was little correlation between the scores of both elementary and secondary students on divergent thinking tests and their actual achievements in high school in such creative fields as art, drama, and science. Creativity tests have also been criticized for unclear instructions, lack of suitability for different populations, and excessive narrowness in terms of what they measure. In addition, it may be impossible for any test to measure certain personal traits that are necessary for success in creative endeavors, such as initiative, self-confidence, tolerance of ambiguity, motivation, and perseverance. Tests also tend to create an anxiety-producing situation that may distort the scores of some test takers.

Rosalie Wieder

Further Reading

Amabile, Teresa. The Social Psychology of Creativity. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1983.

———. Growing Up Creative: Nurturing a Lifetime of Creativity. New York: Crown Publishers, 1989.

Guilford, J.P. The Nature of Human Intelligence. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967.

Sternberg, R.J. The Nature of Creativity. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Torrance, E.P. Guiding Creative Talent. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1962.

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