According to a recent Newsweek article titled The Creativity Crisis (7/10/10), the creativity of the American people is consistently declining since around 1990. This is a recent finding after analyzing the results of administering “creativity” tests (consisting of 90 minutes of open-ended tasks) for over 50 years. While some people blame the increasing popularity of video games among children, there is no conclusive argument about the cause of the decline. One point we are learning from neuroscience is that creativity is an act of integrating analysis and synthesis, using both the left and the right hemispheres of the brain. Although this is just a speculation, this creativity crisis may be related to the heavy reliance on extrinsic motivations, such as rewards and punishments. That is, when extrinsic motivations are the dominant force, the learner may not spend enough time and enthusiasm to go back and forth (or, left and right, with respect to the brain hemispheres) around the problem at hand. This parallels the point that extrinsic motivations obstruct real learning as discussed in our earlier entry on intrinsic motivation.
So, for the sake of our own creativity and learning, let’s slowly move back and forth, analyzing and synthesizing what we have and what we see.