Want to put your creativity to the test? Well, if you have a spare few minutes and can come up with 10 words you're good to go.
Researchers from McGill University, Harvard University, and the University of Melbourne have created The Divergent Association Task to measure creativity. The 4-minute task is a quick measure of verbal creativity and divergent thinking, which refers to one’s ability to generate various diverse solutions to open-ended problems.
So how does it work? Think of 10 words that are as different from each other as possible (e.g., cat and book, not cat and dog). The theory goes that people who are more creative are able to come up with words that have greater distance of meaning between them. This is judged using an algorithm to compute how often the words are used together in similar contexts across billions of webpages.
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However, there is some fine print. Using a list of 70,000 words from an English dictionary, the 10 words must only be made up of nouns that are single words. Also ruled out are the use of proper nouns, and “overly specific” words.
“The test measures divergent thinking and verbal creativity, which are important but limited aspects of overall creativity. Our task won’t predict your creative culinary skills, but it will predict performance on various types of problem-solving, which suggests it is doing more than simply measuring vocabulary,” said Jay Olsen, one of the study authors and a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, to CNN.
Scoring out of 200, the websites notes the average score as 78, with most people scoring between 74 and 82. Scores above 100 are described to be “extremely unlikely on first attempts”.
Many traditional measures of creativity are both time-intensive and subjective, relative only to the specific sample used. This shorter and simpler task, whilst only measuring a small sliver of creativity, significantly enables assessments across larger and more diverse samples with less bias.
Analysing results from nearly 9,000 participants aged 7 to 70 across 98 countries, the results showed higher scores for participants in their 20s than other age groups and slightly higher scores for women. However, it has to be said that demographic differences were very small.
“Our results suggest that age, gender and location are not limiting factors: almost anyone can be creative,” Olson told CNN. “Having more methods to measure creativity means that we can better assess the success of various different methods to promote and nurture creativity.”
Curious? Take the test here but remember, there’s more than one way to be creative!