Saturday, March 8, 2008

Culture and Creativity

Each of us is a product of our culture. Culture has a major impact on our development, values, thinking, and behavior. Collectivism vs. individualism is one of the major differences between cultures throughout the world. In a collectivist society, loyalty to the larger in-group is given in exchange for the group’s protection. Typical of people in Asia and the East is the search for guidance from their in-group, either from respected authority figures or from instilled traditions from the past. Eastern values allow certain personalities to exist and inhibit others. In the West, individuality is encouraged, rewarded and expected. A person must care for his own self and his immediate family; this teaching being a result of a well established work ethic. Playfulness and humor may be acceptable only in certain groups (e.g., children) and are often looked down upon when actual work needs to be done. Of course this is a generalization; there are Westerners who have collectivist tendencies, just as there are Easterners who are individualistic.

Creativity has a cultural context. Our backgrounds, instilled values, and upbringing influence our creativity. Varying cognitive skills may be developed to adapt to a particular environment since different skills are valued in a range of cultures. Eastern and Western cultures each have creative potential, but because of the different domains and behaviors, these potentials cannot be directly compared. The same criteria for ranking and standards do not apply to all cultures. Creativity in and of itself can be difficult to measure, and when comparing creativity between cultures, this task becomes even more confusing. Perhaps the place where one is born has a major impact on the perceived level of creativity one develops.

-- Terry Reding, Graduate Student

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