Two interesting articles on creativity and its relation to age.
The first is a somewhat depressing, unscientific and sexist article that suggests that marriage and age tames genius. A psychologist in New Zealand compared the lives of 280 scientists noting the ages that they made their greatest contribution and comparing it to other biographical details.
He says that most scientists stop making significant contributions within five years of getting married.
My favorite part of this article is the reasoning that he uses for men being motivated to be creative.
Dr Kanazawa suggests “a single psychological mechanism” is responsible for this: the competitive edge among young men to fight for glory and gain the attention of women.
That craving drives the all-important male hormone, testosterone.
Dr Kanazawa theorizes after a man settles down, the testosterone level falls, as does his creative output.
No word on what that means for female creativity or other areas of creativity. Groan. This is so sexist it’s almost painful. Not to mention the obvious fallacy of implying that men’s motivation for going into science is to attract ladies. Following that logic, Mick Jagger must have become a rock star because of his passion for knowledge.
A far better article comes from Smithsonian Magazine, an interview with David Galenson, which divides creative folks into two groups, Young Geniuses and Old Masters. Young Geniuses tend to be conceptual, while the Old Masters improve with age by applying trial and error. Here’s a key quote from the article.
What’s the difference in how Young Geniuses and Old Masters think?
Conceptual people—the Young Geniuses—emphasize the new idea, and plan their work very carefully. They often say that the execution is perfunctory. Indeed, in today’s world, some of the greatest conceptual artists don’t even execute their own work—they have it made by other people. But the Old Masters are never entirely sure what it is they want done, so they couldn’t possibly have anybody else do it. Cezanne couldn’t have said to somebody, “Go and make a painting for me.”
There is no mention of marriage or testosterone levels in this article.