Values and Creativity

Review by: William A. Harper
By Joseph Kasof, Chuansheng Chen, Amy Himsel, and Ellen Greenberger

The Big Idea

There is something of a paradox about the relative value of human creativity.   On the one hand, creativity plays a central and vital role in culture-creating-and-perpetuating; on the other hand, when general populations are surveyed about the importance of creativity as a value, it is barely an after-thought.

For example, as these authors point out, in value surveys with large representative samples of Americans in 1968 and 1971, creativity was ranked last among the 36 values listed.  In 1990 when a large national sample population was asked which of 11 values they considered really important to encourage in children, creativity was 11th.  Even in the U.S. annual samples of over 250,000 entering college freshmen when asked to rate the importance of 20 life aspirations—including four that specifically identified creative efforts—the creativity aspirations were the lowest ranked.  These authors sadly conclude:

Judging from these results, it would appear that the single value most highly promotive of advances in art, technology, architecture, music, literature, and all other domains of culture is also the value that is held in lowest regard in contemporary American society.