[LINK] People are biased against creativity

by minderbinder1 min read6th Sep 20119 comments


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A lot of people probably saw this on hacker news but I thought I'd share it anyway - People are biased against creative ideas, studies find

To sum up, most people dislike uncertainty so much that they'll reject pretty much anything new, good or not. The article states that "Anti-creativity bias can be so subtle that people are unaware of it, which can interfere with their ability to recognize a creative idea." By "creative idea," I of course mean lawful creativity - the article seems to suggest that at a certain point, every creative suggestion starts to sound about as useful as "let's put pictures of purple unicorns on the wall to help ourselves be more productive," if you're biased enough.

What's a good way to fight this? Obviously solving the problem of being creative is a totally different matter. But I would suggest the usual "if you were a different person injected into your own life to improve things" approach and start by taking every single suggestion seriously and thinking it through as if you were only dealing with the issue for the very first time, and then as time went on, improve at making quick unbiased evaluations of creative ideas.

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"let's put pictures of purple unicorns on the wall to help ourselves be more productive"

Why are you implying this wouldn't work? Twilight Sparkle is a great role model for conscientiousness!

I think my productivity would be helped most by a giant poster of Twilight Sparkle smiling that is changed into a picture of her giving me a disapproving stare whenever I start goofing off.

This article is a journalistic synopsis of a scientific paper but does not link to said paper. Nothing unusual there but it does limit the ability to discuss it intelligibly; the further you are from the empirical evidence the greater the potential distortion of the signal.

That being said; I would be interested to see if this was more directed specifically at creativity or merely at uncertainty. If it's simply how to digest new information, well... not even the standard Bayesian theorem states you should be entirely without bias; new information that contradicts old needs to account for the old in the new assessment of probabilities. That's biasing, definitionally.

Typically I handle the concept of uncertainty in a number of ways; one, by a learned apathy -- I seem innately to be more comfortable with uncertainty than others. Two; when I knowingly introduce uncertainty I do so by estimating the 'marginal value' of the act and at what threshold a minimum allocation of time/resources to a thing would likely result in positive gain. I then compartmentalize off an amount relevant to that threshold but no further. (Risk mitigation.)

I don't know that this is useful to others, however.

Awesome, thank you. In quickly perusing that, it really rather seems that by phrasing it as "creativity v. practicality" they were projecting their own a priori biases into the study. Am I mistaken?

"let's put pictures of purple unicorns on the wall to help ourselves be more productive,"

How dare you malign my print of Twilight Sparkle!

The rationalist viewpoint seems to add a key point that is missing in the acutal article: the motivation why people would say they desire creativity. Signalling, of course.

For example, subjects had a negative reaction to a running shoe equipped with nanotechnology that adjusted fabric thickness to cool the foot and reduce blisters.

I wonder if this is typical of the new ideas being tested. There are reasons other than novelty for being dubious about it-- for example, that's a use of nanotech which I believe is well beyond current capability. One might wonder whether it will actually work, or is it a case of nanotech as magic pixie dust?

Also, I don't know whether those implicit bias tests have been checked to see whether the apparent implicit bias shows up in people's actions.

as time went on, improve at making quick unbiased evaluations of creative ideas.

Speed doesn't have to be practiced, humans are good at it. We naturally give answers in five seconds, so only the quality of the evaluating needs practice.