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Wed, Dec. 5th, 2007, 01:17 pm
How To Piss Me Off, Part I

So, let’s say you’re conducting a research study on creativity. You’re identifying 400 creative adolescents in four groups, and plan to do a five-year longitudinal study to see how their creative activities in different domains change, and how this relates to personality traits and measures. You’re going to divide these adolescents up by gender (male and female) and area of interest (science and art) to control for the effects of gender and domain.

Which four groups are you going to create and study?

The appropriate answer is “Female artists, male artists, female scientists, and male scientists, with 100 subjects in each group.” But instead, the authors of this study decided to look at four groups of 100 people each: male artists, male scientists, female artists, and female writers. It’s like … what the fuck? Is writing one of your domains of interest? Then shouldn’t you have groups of male writers and female scientists? Are you trying to make a statement about gender and science, or are you just plain lazy?

It’s not just insulting, it’s bad science. You can’t compare creative personality traits cross-domain when there’s a whole lot of evidence that domain skills mediate creativity, that the social conditions of different domains provide different reward systems, and that different personality traits correlate with creative success in different areas. At least they had the good sense to match each group with a group of less-creative individuals with the same interests, but they’re pretty much guaranteeing that they can’t look at the effects of gender and domain. Which is fucking ridiculous, because it’s quite clear that there’s effects of gender on creativity by domain, particularly in science! Maybe they just wanted to avoid having to answer a question that was actually difficult or challenging?

Bah. Grr. And they say that science doesn’t encode our cultural values.