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Laws of historiometry

Simonton generalized the main finding of the historiometric approach to creativity as the laws of historiometry. These findings include the following:

(1) Creativity can be considered as a variety of leadership. "If a leader is one whose imprint on the group exceeds that of most group members, then certainly some creators are leaders within their own cultural realms" (Simonton, 1984: 78).

(2) The potential of a creator or a leader is almost entirely established in adolescence and early adulthood, the rest of the individual's life being dedicated to actualizing this potential genius. Hence follows the importance of the study of family influences, role models, mentorship, etc.

(3) The desire to excel is a primary factor in achieved eminence, often compensating for an intellect below the highest rank. A strong need to achieve excellence was found in 90 percent of the eminent.

(4) The role of education for the development of creative potential: obtaining basic knowledge and skills is necessary; graduate education is irrelevant. The role of self-education, wide interests and a breadth of perspective is high. Versatility - the number of separate fields in which individual attains distinction - significantly correlates with achieved eminence.

(5) Certain prolific persons are responsible for a disproportionate share of the achievements in any given domain of creativity. (See Lotka's law.)

(6) The quantity of productive output is probabilistically connected to quality of impact, or eminence. The odds of a creator's conceiving a quality product are always proportional to the quantity of products. The model of a constant probability of success is compatible with Campbell's (1960) blind variation and selective-retention model. The main factors of total lifetime output is the early beginning (precociousness), productivity rate and longevity.

(7) The principle of cumulative advantage or "Mathew's effect" is one basis for the extraordinary individual differences in eminence and influence. This principle also has some relevance to the curvilinear relation between personal age and historical achievement.

(8) The productive peak in creative carrier - the floruit or acme - occurs around the age of 40. However, the specific location of the peak varies from one creative discipline to another: revolution is, like poetry and mathematics, the preoccupation of youth, while history and philosophy reach their creative peak in later age.

(9) The products of genius have objective attributes that set it apart from less distinguished creations, and these beneficial attributes may in turn arise from precise biographical events or circumstances, such as life crises or age.

(10) Neither the Zeitgeist nor the genius is unimportant, though both agents must yield some explanatory ground to chance as well.

As Simonton (Simonton, 1984: 182) concludes, "These principles, culled from historical data, have respectable nomothetic [i.e. universal] status. Birth-order effects, role-modeling influences, the Matthew effect and the principle of cumulative advantage, Price's and Lotka's law, Planck's principle, the law of polarization, the curvilinear relations between education and accomplishment, between age and achievement, and between melodic originality and thematic success - all of these generalizations are nomothetic findings: they are cross-culturally and transhistorically invariant under the specified conditions."

Laws of historiometry. Dictionary of Creativity: Terms, Concepts, Theories & Findings in Creativity Research / Compiled and edited by Eugene Gorny., 2007.
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