NASA are responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. In 1968, Professor George Land and Beth Jarman were contacted by NASA and asked to devise a creativity test to help select innovative engineers and scientists. The assessment was a huge success. The test worked so well and was so simple that the duo then came up with a creativity test for children. The test was to look at a problem and come up with new, different and innovative ideas.
They tested 1,600 children between the ages of 4 and 5 and were amazed by the results. Out of the 1,600 children who took the test, 98% of them scored at genius level. Land and Jarman then decided to measure the children’s progress over time. They turned the research into a longitudinal study and tested the same children again at 10 years old. By this point, only 30% of children were at genius level. They then tested the children at 15 years old and found that only 12% were at genius level. It is important to note that the same creativity test was given to 280,000 adults (average age of 31) and the genius level was at 2%.
According to Land, the primary reason for the rapid reduction in creativity was due to the fact that schools teach children to try and use both convergent and divergent thinking at the same time:
Convergent thinking: where you judge ideas, criticise them, refine them, combine them and improve them, all of which happens in your conscious thought
Divergent thinking: where you imagine new ideas, original ones which are different from what has come before but which may be rough to start with, and which often happens subconsciously.
Land explains that it is impossible for children to use both kinds of thinking at once as competing neurons in the brain will be fighting with each other. Land also provides solutions and suggests that if people are allowed to split their thinking processes into various states, they would be more effective in their ability to be creative.