Cultural differences were found to be associated with the assessment of creativity

(ORDO NEWS) — The article was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology. Cultural characteristics determine how a person evaluates the result of the creative activity of other people.

Through culture, people unconsciously assimilate ideas about creativity and creative activity. They, in turn, influence the appreciation of creative work. However, it is still unknown how cultural differences are manifested in the assessments of such works.

To find out, Anatoly Kharkhurin , Associate Professor of the HSE Faculty of Social Sciences (with the participation of Sergey Yagolkovsky , Associate Professor of the HSE Faculty of Social Sciences ) conducted a study within the framework of the World-class Research Center (NCMU) project “Center for Interdisciplinary Human Potential Research”.

In the first stage of the work, the researchers used the Thomas Ward structured imagination test . The study involved students from the Higher School of Economics and the American University of Sharjah (UAE). The subjects were asked to imagine, draw, and describe a creature living on another planet. This test assessed the respondents’ ability to think outside the box.

All drawings were analyzed for three features: the presence of bilateral symmetry, two eyes, and four limbs. Aliens, which have all three properties, are similar to the familiar images of people and animals living on Earth. However, an alien can be drawn by breaking these rules.

Then the received drawings were evaluated by jury members from Russia and the UAE. The Russian jury consisted of 53 students 17–20 years old, the Emirates – the same number of participants in the age range from 17 to 26 years old. For this, 100 works were selected – equally from representatives of the two countries. The task of the jury was to evaluate the creativity of the works on a five-point scale.

Scientists suggested that people from different cultures should have appreciated the drawings in different ways. The Russian jury awarded all participants, regardless of nationality, more points than their colleagues from the UAE. In addition, drawings by Russian students were rated higher than drawings by Emirati students by both Russian and Emirati arbiters. Drawings by Russians received 3.12 points from compatriots and 2.54 from Emirates, while drawings of Emirates received 2.33 points from Russians and 1.94 from compatriots.

Analysis of the data obtained showed that the differences in estimates were associated with how familiar the aliens looked in the drawings. In the first phase of the study, participants from the UAE, when drawing aliens, were generally less likely to deviate from invariants than Russians. This may be due to the disapproval of a creative assignment that involves breaking the rules.

The UAE group was more likely to find drawings of aliens other than terrestrial creatures less attractive – hence, these drawings were judged as less creative. At the same time, Russian subjects, on the contrary, believed that the less an alien resembled an earthly animal or a person, the more creative the whole drawing.

“People from different cultures value creative work differently. Representatives of Western countries value novelty and originality in a work, and people from Eastern countries value aesthetics and good quality of the work performed. Therefore, in Western countries, going beyond the generally accepted standards is encouraged, while in Eastern countries it is valued lower, ”says Anatoly Kharkhurin.

However, despite all the cultural differences in the perception of creativity, the Russian and Emirati juries rated the creativity of the drawings created by the participants from Russia higher.

This may be due to the fact that the rules of aesthetics, in contrast to the beliefs associated with creativity, are universal for different cultures, and both groups found the drawings of the Russian participants more aesthetic. Read more in the material IQ.HSE.


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