Status: have spent about two hours on this.

As part of measuring how marginal productivity changes over time, I need to know how to assess creativity. One promising test for that is the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking, in which subjects are given an open ended prompt, and graded on their answers. Answers are evaluated by a human being for fluency, originality, abstractness of titles, elaboration and resistance to premature closure (sample questions for the curious). But does the TTCT predict anything we actually care about?

The creator of the tests studied their predictive ability in a longitudinal study that lasted 50 years so far. The 40 year follow up showed good-for-social-sciences correlation between childhood TTCT scores and adult creative achievement, although IQ had a stronger correlation. The 50 year follow up (conducted by different experimenters) found no correlation between score and "public achievement" unless combined with IQ. Given that these studies were subject to the usual social science weaknesses, multiplied by 50 years and subjective grading, I do not count this as strong evidence.

A smaller study in Brazil found adulthood scores of recognized creative achievers and non-achievers to vary.

Basic googling found more academics saying both disparaging (beginning of page 310) and encouraging things.

My default assumption is that psychometric tests are invalid, and this evidence isn't enough to make me change my mind. But I don't have anything better to use for my actual goal, which is a measurable task that taxes creativity and *nothing else*, and this has a certain face validity to it. Does anyone have information to sway on the validity of the test, or an alternative test to use?

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Jun 29, 2019


A good anthology to read is Creativity, ed Vernon 1970 - it's old but it shows you what people were thinking back when Torrance was trying to come up with creativity tests, and the many psychometric criticisms back then which I'm not sure have been convincingly resolved.

2 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 10:46 PM

" But I don't have anything better to use for my actual goal, which is a measurable task that taxes creativity and *nothing else* "

Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but why would one want to tax creativity? Seems to me that for the most part, creativity will have a lot of public good characteristics -- though I suppose one might suggest creative destruction is a better view...

Tax as in "a heavy demand", not "a charge usually of money imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes".