How many uses can you think of for a toothpick other than picking teeth or facilitating your sampling of a morsel of bread?
Perhaps you can stick it through your sweater, attach some frilly decorations to its ends, and voila, you’ve got yourself a lovely little homemade brooch.
Or you could assemble a bunch of them into a shape that vaguely resembles a tower, or a dwarf’s hat, or a bridge, and glue it onto a sheet of paper.
You could also use it to support the drooping plant in your flower pot or a mini snowman who looks like it’s going to topple over soon.
The more uses you can come up with in 60 seconds, the higher score you will get on the “alternative uses test,” one of the many tests devised to gauge your creativity.
Creativity is among the most desirable qualities that employers and college admission officers value in an applicant, but it didn’t actually get much attention in psychology until the 1960s.
The revered US psychologist J.P. Guilford at that time contended that the standardized intelligence test, more widely known as the IQ test, failed to take into account any element of creativity.
For a long time, it was believed that one’s intelligence could be reduced into one summative score.
In an IQ test, several discrete components of intelligence are rated, including your verbal strength (e.g., the volume of your vocabulary repository and your ability to verbally explain a concept), problem-solving ability, memory, attention, and reasoning.
It is estimated that about two-thirds of the population can obtain scores between 85 and 115.
Only 0.5 percent can score above 145, and they are what we consider as geniuses.
One task in the test, for example, assesses your reasoning by presenting a set of pictures with the last one left blank and asking you to choose from multiple options the one that will fit into the sequence.
It’s basically just a pattern-seeking activity. I’m sure you all have been confronted with such a dreary task in a math practice book during your elementary school years.
The problem with the IQ test, as Guilford’s argument goes, is that it is too static to measure something as complicated and dynamic as one’s intelligence.
In his effort to dig deeper into intelligence, creativity entered the scene, and a stream of research studies ensued to bring out the richness in this human quality.
Distinct from the components of intelligence measured in the IQ test, creativity doesn’t proclaim a one-answer-per-question approach to life’s tasks.
As far as the proverbial saying is concerned, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. (Animal rights advocates, pardon my French.)
Now, you might ask, “Yes, we all know how important creativity is as a measure of intelligence. Drop the cliche already. The more relevant question should be, is it possible to test for one’s creativity?”
As we all intuitively know, there are assorted types of creative energy.
The kind of creativity manifested by a mathematician is not the same as the creative force a novelist unleashes through stories.
In fact, more than 100 or so types of creativity have been scientifically verified.
The number is only going to get even bigger as psychologists’ understanding of creativity deepens and advances.
After seeing the bulk of creativity research, it is hard for me not to assume that everyone is endowed with some creative potential in one way or another, and perhaps part of living is to go on a scavenger hunt for it.
Reasonable enough, there have been a collection of different tests designed to evaluate one’s creativity.
Apart from the “alternative uses test,” another example of the tests is the “consequences test,” where you are asked to develop different possible outcomes to a given scenario.
What would be the result if a magical, omnipotent ring was lost to a world full of greedy beings?
You are not out of mind if this question gives you the urge to write a novel out of it. It was the premise that fanned out into Tolkien’s creative, fantastic, and all-time classic, The Lord of the Rings.
The IQ test is still extensively used nowadays for want of a more comprehensive alternative.
The score derived from it is still able to say something about your intelligence, but it is nowhere near portraying the panorama of your immensely creative mind.