Creativity and the aging brain



  • © Rex E. Jung and Oshin Vartanian 2018. According to some researchers (e.g., Abra, 1989), there is a decrease in creativity with aging. There is some support for this claim; for example, Simonton (1994) reported that there are age-related changes in creative productivity, with a sharp increase in productivity between the ages of 20 and 30 years, peaking between the ages of 30 and 50, followed by declining creative production over the next several decades. Lehman (1953) reported that poets and mathematicians typically reach their creative peaks at the earliest age, while philosophers and novelists develop their peak creativity at a later age. Even within these broad trends, there is uncertainty about the strength of the relationship between age and creativity. According to Lehman, scientists do their highest-quality work before the age of 40, but Cole (1979) found that age had only a minor impact on scientific performance. For the most part, however, there has been little study of how creativity may change with age. Remarkably, the term “aging” doesn’t even appear in the index of a recent handbook on creativity (Kaufman & Sternberg, 2010). In this chapter we will discuss how aging may influence creativity and the changes in the brain that may be responsible for these changes; but first we will discuss the definition of creativity, the stages of creativity and the component cognitive processes that may be critical for creative productions. Definition of Creativity The Merriam Dictionary (1988) defines creativity as the ability to make new things. Similarly, the Encyclopedia Britannica defines creativity as the ability to make or bring into existence something new. These definitions are, however, somewhat inadequate. Artists, writers, and scientists who mechanically record facts might be productive but are not creative. Conversely, typing a list of nonwords, colors randomly applied to a canvas, or a random list of variables may be novel or original, but not creative. Some definitions also mention utility or the production of useful object; however, an artist may paint a beautiful picture but never display this painting. Thus, it is not useful, but this painting can be very creative. Bronowski (1972) defined creativity as finding unity in what appears to be diversity. We agree that finding unity appears to be a major element or theme of much creative achievement.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    International Standard Book Number (isbn) 13

  • 9781107147614
  • Start Page

  • 476
  • End Page

  • 492