© Reuters/Michaela Rehle
It feels different, too.
What makes highly creative people different from the rest of us? In the 1960s, psychologist and creativity researcher Frank X. Barron
set about finding out. Barron conducted a series of experiments on some of his generation's most renowned thinkers in an attempt to isolate the unique spark of creative genius.
In a historic study, Barron invited a group of high-profile creators—including writers Truman Capote, William Carlos Williams, and Frank O'Connor, along with leading architects, scientists, entrepreneurs, and mathematicians—to spend several days living in a former frat house on the University of California at Berkeley campus. The participants spent time getting to know one another, being observed by researchers, and completing evaluations of their lives, work, and personalities, including tests that aimed to look for signs of mental illness and indicators of creative thinking.
Barron found that, contrary to conventional thought at the time, intelligence had only a modest role in creative thinking
. IQ alone could not explain the creative spark.
The creative genius is "occasionally crazier and yet adamantly saner than the average person." Instead, the study showed that creativity is informed by a whole host of intellectual, emotional, motivational and moral characteristics. The common traits that people across all creative fields seemed to have in common were an openness to one's inner life; a preference for complexity and ambiguity; an unusually high tolerance for disorder and disarray; the ability to extract order from chaos; independence; unconventionality; and a willingness to take risks.
Describing this hodgepodge of traits, Barron wrote that the creative genius was "both more primitive and more cultured, more destructive and more constructive, occasionally crazier and yet adamantly saner, than the average person."