Almost 30 years ago philosopher James Flynn discovered that IQ scores were increasing in every industrialized country around the globe. But before we pat ourselves on back, Bronson and Merryman warn us that we may be in the midst of a Creativity Crisis. Although IQ scores continue to climb, creativity scores, at least as measured on the Torrance Test of Creativity are dropping through the floor. 

After reviewing the scores of 300,000 children using the Torrance Test of Creativity, Kyung-Hee Kim of the College of William and Mary saw a steep decline in scores from kindergarteners to 6th graders.

What are some of the reasons for this? A few possibilities are mentioned by Bronson and Merryman suggest one "likely culprit" is the number of hours kids spend in front of the TV or playing videogames. Other fingers are pointed at "drill and kill", "no time", and the "art bias" - thinking that creativity in school should only be taught in art class.

In The Invisible Gorilla, authors Chambris and Simons warn about the "illusion of knowledge". When Rozenglit and Keil polled random students in the hallways of the psych building and asked them if they knew how a crossbow worked or why the sky was blue, most gave up quickly, answering no more than one or two 'why' questions before encountering their ignorance. Not surprisingly, when students when then instructed about a particular process or mechanism, their ratings about their self-knowledge dropped! They had at least learned how little they knew.

We would add some additional reasons why creativity may be dropping with our current younger generation - there is more-and-more technology yes, but more often more breadth than depth, and more distancing from the tasks of direct learning and problem solving. From Keil: "One important factor underlying the illusion of explanatory depth arises from the richly hierarchical nature of most complex systems, which means that they can be understood at several levels of analysis. One can understand how a computer “works” in terms of the high-level functions of the mouse, the hard drive, and the display while not having any understanding of the mechanisms that enable a cursor to move when a mouse is moved, or allow information to be stored and erased, or control pixels on a screen. This hierarchical structure of complex causal systems seduces us into a sense of understanding at a high level, which is then mistaken for having an understanding at a lower level."

So maybe in our quest for higher learning, we are spending too little time flailing about at the low?

BTW, if you'd like to take part of the creativity test, go here.