Since the 1950s, researchers have been trying to figure out ways to study creativity in an evermore scientific manner.

As a result, they have devised a series of creativity tests which can be completed in a laboratory environment, to compare the creative performance of individuals.

While many researchers devise data sets and design their own experiments for creativity (like Amabile did with her 12,000 journal entries), some tests are used so frequently that there are standardised methods involved.

Here, I will summarise some of the most important sets of creativity tests which have been frequently used by Creativity researchers across the world.

Alternate Uses Test (AUT)

One of the primary measures of divergent thinking, this test seeks to see how many unconventional uses a person can think of for a normal object within a time limit.

It is often given as part of the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT), which is either a paper-based or computer based test where a person is given a challenge and asked to write down as many possible results as possible.

For example: List as many uses you can think of for a paperclip.

There is no single correct answer, so the individual can write a huge, divergent number of answers.

The science then comes in being able to compare the list of all the items an individual wrote against themselves, and then also against what other people wrote.

Scoring is based on a number of criteria, but the most important are:

  • Fluency: How many total ideas did the person write in the time allowed, and how does this compare to other individuals?
  • Flexibility: How different are the ideas from each other? (e.g. for “paperclip”: Are all of the ideas related to fastening things to one another, or are there different categories of ideas identifyable, such as uses as jewelery, opening objects, metal properties…)
  • Originality: Of the ideas the person generated, how different were they against what other individuals produced? If everyone wrote down “bind pieces of paper together”, then it is very common and not original. But if only a small percentage of people wrote down “make a crown for a mouse”, then it is much rarer, and therefore much more original.

Because the question is standardised, the answers can then be collected, analysed and compared within the list produced by the individual, between everyone who did the test at that time, and against everyone who has previously done the test.

The AUT has been found to be a valid predictor of people’s divergent thinking skills. While this is only one part of the creative process, it is a valid predictor of creativity.

Using these test results, researchers have been able to make some breathtaking discoveries, like how average creativity scores have been falling for the past few decades.

Remote Associates Test (RAT)

While many creativity tests focus on divergent thinking, the Remote Associates test aims to study the brain while it is trying to experience a moment of insight, where the correct but creative answer is discovered.

This is therefore more of a test of convergent thinking.

It has previously commonly been used in brain imaging studies, to find out which parts of the brain become more or less active when an idea is triggered.

In the RAT, developed in 1962 by Professor Sarnoff Mednick and Martha T. Mednick., the participant is given three words which are associated by a mystery third word, and are asked to figure out the missing associated word.

For example, if you were given the three words:

PLOUGH / FLAKE / MAN

The Remote Associate missing word could be…

SNOW.

If you would like to try out the test yourself, you can try it for free here.

Creative Personality Surveys

Creativity has also sometimes been assessed based on surveys which participants fill out about themselves, especially surveys which relate to their personality.

In some cases, these could also be surveys that other people fill out about someone, such as someone’s teacher (Teacher’s Evaluation of Students’ Creativity – TESC) or parents (Parental Evaluation of Children’s Creativity – PECC).

These are based on selecting which adjectives best describes someone or how they feel and act (Adjective Check List). Prior research will then show correlations between which adjectives were selected for individuals with both high and low creativity scores.

Some adjectives which would signify that a child is creative for example would be: artistic, curious, imaginative, independent, inventive, original, wide interests.

There are also other Personality Assessment systems like the California Psychological Inventory – Creativity Scale (developed by Gough in 1975) which measure a whole host of psychological traits.

Finally, there is the Kirton Adaption-Innovation Inventory (Kirton, 1976) which assesses how an individual is more likely to approach a challenge.

So if you have ever wondered how scientists manage to assess and compare the creative performance and potential of individuals, these are just some of the ways.

Nick Skillicorn: I help teams and companies just like yours unleash the creativity and innovation potential that already exists in your people.

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Did you know that scientific evidence shows your creativity decreases over time
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Creativity & Innovation expert: I help individuals and companies build their creativity and innovation capabilities, so you can develop the next breakthrough idea which customers love. Chief Editor of Ideatovalue.com and Founder / CEO of Improvides Innovation Consulting. Coach / Speaker / Author / TEDx Speaker / Voted as one of the most influential innovation bloggers.