The Creative Stereotype Effect
Dunbar, Kevin N.
Dumas D, Dunbar KN (2016) The Creative Stereotype Effect. PLoS ONE 11(2): e0142567. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0142567
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Because of its fundamental relevance to scientific innovation, artistic expression, and human ingenuity, creativity has long been the subject of systematic psychological investigation. Concomitantly, the far-reaching effects of stereotypes on various cognitive and social processes have been widely researched. Bridging these two literatures, we show in a series of two studies that stereotypes related to creativity can both enhance and diminish individuals’ performance on a divergent thinking task. Specifically, Study 1 demonstrated that participants asked to take on a stereotypically uninhibited perspective performed significantly better on a divergent thinking task than those participants who took on a stereotypically inhibited perspective, and a control group. Relatedly, Study 2 showed that the same effect is found within-subjects, with divergent thinking significantly improving when participants invoke an uninhibited stereotype. Moreover, we demonstrate the efficacy of Latent Semantic Analysis as an objective measure of the originality of ideas, and discuss implications of our findings for the nature of creativity. Namely, that creativity may not be best described as a stable individual trait, but as a malleable product of context and perspective.