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Apr272011

Research Project

Are Artists More Original?  

Findings from a Task of Verbal Fluency

 DellaPietra, L.1, Grugan, P.K.2, Dominello, N.1, & Szatkowski, K.1

Holy Family University1
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts2
Philadelphia, PA

In 1959, utilizing the Alternate Uses Task, Guilford found that creative individuals were:

Fluent –  they generated more responses overall

Flexible –  they generated responses from a variety of different categories

Original –  they produced atypical or unusual responses

DellaPietra, Grugan & Dominello (2006) found that art students scored higher than control subjects on commonly used neuropsychological measures of cognitive flexibility, and verbal and visual fluency.  The higher performance by art students on the verbal fluency task was unexpected but lent itself to exploring the hypothesis that art students would produce more original responses.

The Artists                                                                       The Non-Artists

  • 24 art students                                            25 undergraduate volunteers
  • Mean age = 26.1 years                                Mean age = 21.8 years
  • 15 males, 9 females                                     10 males, 15 females
  • Mean GPA = 3.55                                          Mean GPA = 3.44
  • 54% first year students                                Evenly distributed education 
  • 83% exclusively right handed                       82% exclusively right handed
  • 62% painting majors, 25% eductaion           37% liberal arts, 25% nursing, 
  •   Mean AMNART errors = 14.62                      Mean AMNART errors = 16.08

Materials and Procedure

All subjects were administered the Controlled Oral Word Association Test, which measures verbal fluency.  Subjects completed 3 trials requiring them to generate as many words as they could beginning with a certain letter (C,F,L).  There was a one minute time limit per trial.

Data Analyses

Words generated by the subjects were analyzed utilizing the Kucera & Francis and American Heritage word frequency

banks.  Higher frequency numbers indicate that a word is more commonly used in the English language

Results

Art students generated more words that were not generated by control subjects (p<.0001).  On the last (L) trial, words generated more often by artists were less common (p=05) in the English language.  On the first (C) trial, there was a trend (p=.11) for words generated more often by art students to be less common.  Of the 136 most uncommon words, 81 (60%) were given by art students only.

Discussion and Remaining Questions

As predicted from Guilford’s model, art students generated more original words.  This originality was seen when art student responses were compared to control subjects and when words generated by art students were analyzed according to their frequency of usage in the English language.  Observed differences are not a function of intelligence (as estimated).  Art students can retrieve more original words.  Do controls have access to these words?  If instructed to produce original words, could they do so?  Are art student responses to visual fluency tasks also more original?  Why don’t art students reliably give more original words on every trial?

References

Guilford, J. P. (1982).  Traits of creativity.  In H.H. Anderson (Ed.), Creativity and its Cultivation (pp. 142-161).  Harper Press.

DellaPietra, L., Grugan, P.K., & Dominello, N. (2006).  Fluency and flexibility in artists.  Presented at NAN, San Antonio, TX..