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Interpersonal Processes

Besides cognition, knowledge, personality, and motivation, research highlights the important role of interpersonal processes for creativity. We review one's sense of the audience, as well as the ability to collaborate, and we examine how these processes fare with aging.

Sense of the Audience

Creators think about how others will react. This "sense of the audience" probably plays a very large role in both the generation and the evaluation of creative ideas—the two defining components of creativity. Sense of the audience is at the heart of the crucial distinction between originality and usefulness. Creativity requires the accurate evaluation that the original idea will be useful, beneficial, and desired by the relevant audience (Csikszentmihalyi, 1999). "Audience" is meant both literally, as in the arts and technology, and figuratively. In science and academic disciplines, "audience" refers to people at the cutting edge of the discipline, embodied by the "gatekeepers," who are the group of individuals with the power to decide which contributions will be smiled upon (Csikszentmihalyi, 1999).

A good sense of the audience may rely on perspective taking, as it allows us to accurately judge what others will see as novel and valuable (Grant & Berry, 2011). Consistent with this idea, some of the default network brain regions associated with "theory of mind" (mental simulations of the minds of others) have been found to be crucial for a positive audience reception (Falk, Morelli, Welborn, Dambacher, & Lieberman, 2013). Adequate perspective-taking may explain why relatives of individuals who suffer from schizophrenia are more represented among creative trades than nonrelatives (Kinney et al., 2001; Kyaga et al., 2011). Indeed, the looseness of thought and surplus intrusions of schizophrenia may lead to the generation of very novel ideas, but not to their accurate evaluation. What the relatives may have, and the individuals with schizophrenia lack, is a better sense of the audience.

What does perspective-taking consist of? Perspective-taking has been defined as one's ability to imagine the world from another person's point of view (Galinsky, Ku, & Wang, 2005) and to understand other people's thoughts, motivations, and emotions (Parker, Atkins, & Axtell, 2008). Such sense of audience probably also uses domain- specific and general knowledge accumulated through experience, but it is important not to mistake a good sense of audience with the goal of merely pleasing the audience. Creators may use their sense of audience to anticipate acceptance or rejection, but its function is much broader than that. Having a well-developed sense of audience allows the creator to anticipate what the audience and the domain will ultimately benefit from, even if the audience may not find the idea to be "pleasing" in the short-run (Forgeard & Mecklenburg, 2013; Silvia, 2012).

A good sense of audience stems in part from prosocial motivation, defined as the "desire to expend effort based on a concern for helping or contributing to other people" (Batson, 1987; Grant & Berry, 2011). In keeping with this, a growing body of research shows that working for the benefit of others is linked to increased creativity (for a review, see Forgeard & Mecklenburg, 2013). Prosocial motivation and a good sense of the audience probably ultimately provide creators with the resources to effectively communicate their ideas to their audience.

Such "persuasion" is a major facet of perspective taking (Simonton, 1990). Creators can persuade indirectly, by letting their work convince and inspire others, or more directly, by persuading funders (Gardner, 2011). In keeping with this, Gardner (1993) suggested that the key similarity among the seven geniuses of the 20th century—Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Gandhi—was effective and relentless self-promotion.

Sense of audience and aging. There are good reasons to believe that age helps perspective-taking. Some of this stems from an increasing concern for the well-being of others (and especially of future generations), thinking more about legacy. Erikson referred to this as generativity (1963), a primary focus starting in middle age and continuing into old age (Keyes & Ryff, 1998; Sheldon & Kasser, 2001). The role legacy may play in creativity is illustrated by the swan-song phenomenon that Simonton (1989) documented in classical composers. Not infrequently, creators produce successful works at the very end of their lives.

Aside from increasing concern and motivation for others, how does aging influence the cognitive processes at play in a good sense of the audience? The research on age differences in theory of mind has produced inconsistent results, with some studies finding increases (e.g., Happe, Winner, & Brownell, 1998), others no differences (MacPherson, Phillips, & Della Sala, 2002), and others decreases (Maylor, Moulson, Muncer, & Taylor, 2002; Pratt, Diessner, Pratt, Hunsberger, & Pancer, 1996) with age. A meta-analysis of these findings, however, suggests that aging is associated with reliable deficits in theory of mind and task modalities (Henry, Phillips, Ruffman, & Bailey, 2013). Research on the underlying mechanisms of this decline suggests that it is only partially explained by general decline in executive function and general cognitive ability, and that a specific decline in social cognitive abilities exist (Moran, 2013; Sullivan & Ruffman, 2004).

On balance, we suspect that aging likely leads to an enhanced sense of audience thanks to the accumulated knowledge of the audience. We suspect this outweighs the possible decline in theory of mind with age. This assumes, however, stability of the audience over time. Sometimes, however, the audience changes faster than the creator can accommodate. For example, Pietro Mascagni's greatest opera was his first, after which the audience response to his successive operas declined until he was eventually booed off the stage.

 
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