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Studies Show That American Creativity Is Declining

"For the first time, research shows that American creativity is declining." That's the first line in a 2010 cover story for Newsweek. The data on creativity comes from decades of research based on a "creativity quotient" test designed by Professor E. Paul Torrance. For the past fifty years, Torrance and his colleagues have been administering the 90-minute test to millions of people worldwide. For nearly thirty years the research showed a predictable trend: creativity quotients kept increasing. In each generation children were becoming more creative than their parents.

But, suddenly, in 1990 that trend ended as creativity scores in the United States started inching downward. After analyzing over 300,000 creativity tests given to children and adults, researchers found that this downward trend has continued for the past twenty years.

In a 2017 follow-up study, data indicate that “children have become less emotionally expressive, less energetic, less talkative and verbally expressive, less humorous, less imaginative, less unconventional, less lively and passionate, less perceptive, less apt to connect seemingly irrelevant things, less synthesizing, and less likely to see things from a different angle.”

Experts mention numerous possible causes for the loss of creativity—video games, too much television, the educational system. But the Newsweek article argues that results are not debatable: "The potential consequences are sweeping … . A IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 'leadership competency' of the future … . All around us are matters of national and international importance that are crying out for creative solutions."

Commenting on the Newsweek article, Christian blogger Jonathon Merritt wrote,

Followers of Jesus feel an additional pinch. One of the attributes of God is creativity, and as image-bearers we have an obligation to cultivate creativity in culture. This is part of our 'saltiness' as Christians. We should have masterful artists, revolutionary thinkers, and brilliant scientists among our ranks. In this way, a creativity crisis becomes an opportunity for [the church] to fill a cultural void with creative, redemptive energy.

Editor’s Note: This illustration was updated in March of 2024

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