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Personal traits

Some authors argue that creativity is determined primarily not so much by characteristics of mental processes occurring in the creative act as by specific personal traits. Various lists of such traits characterizing the creative person may be found in the research literature. Thus, Davis (1999) collected over 200 adjectives and brief descriptions of creative attitudes and personality traits found in literature on creativity and sorted them into fifteen categories of positive, socially desirable traits and seven categories of negative, potentially troublesome traits. The list of positively recurrent attitudes and traits of creative people includes:

1) Aware of creativeness (value originality and creativity)

2) Original (flexible in ideas and thoughts; challenges norms and assumptions; resourceful; full of ideas; avoids perceptual sets; sees things in new ways)

3) Independent (self-confident; individualistic; does not fear being different; sets own rules; dissatisfied with status quo; internally controlled, inner directed)

4) Risk-taking (courageous; not afraid to try something new; willing to cope with failure; does not mind consequences of being different)

5) Energetic (adventurous; high intrinsic motivation; overactive, hyperactive; enthusiastic; persistent, persevering; sensation seeking)

6) Curious (experiments; wide interests; likes to hear other's ideas; asks many questions; open to irrational; seeks interesting situations)

7) Sense of humour (childish freshness in thinking; plays with ideas; playful; sharp-witted)

8) Attracted to complexity (attracted to the mysterious, the asymmetrical, ambiguity, incongruity and novelty; is a complex person; tolerant to disorder)

9) Capacity for fantasy (animistic and magical thinking; had imaginary playmates as child; mixes truth and fantasy/fiction)

10) Artistic (aesthetic interests; sensitivity to beauty)

11) Open-minded (liberal; receptive to new ideas; open to new experience and growth; receptive to others viewpoints)

12) Needs alone time (internally preoccupied; prefers to work alone; introspective; reflective)

13) Intuitive (perceptive; sees relationships, implications; good at problem finding; observant; heighten sensitivity to details and patterns)

14) Emotional (can express feelings, emotions; sensitive; moody; has emotional highs and lows; needs attention, praise, support)

15) Ethical (altruistic; idealistic; empathic)

The list of negative traits of creative people that usually disturb supervisors, parents, teachers and peers and may cause personal or social adjustment problems includes:

1) Egoistical (intolerant, self-centred, snobbish)

2) Impulsive (act without planning; careless, impatient, capricious, tactless, irresponsible, disorganized with unimportant matters)

3) Argumentative (cynical; rebellious, uncooperative; defiant; stubborn; autocratic; little regard for rules, conventions, mores, law, authority)

4) Immature (childish; sloppy; silly)

5) Absentminded (forgetful; mind wanders; careless)

6) Neurotic (aloof; temperamental; low frustration tolerance; mildly sociopathic; unable to control emotions; uncommunicative)

7) Hyperactive (overactive, physically and mentally)

An alternative list of personal traits relating to creativity includes active curiosity, broad interests, tolerance of ambiguity, self-confidence within one's field of creative activity, a powerful sense of agency and self-efficacy, independence of though and judgment, imaginative and intellectual power, a capacity for hard and self-discipline work, a self-narrative that portrays the self as a creative productive person, and a philosophical commitment to and belief in the importance of one's chosen activity (Harrington, 1999).

Some differences between artistic and scientific creativity have been noted. Artists are characterized by the following set of traits: openness to experience, phantasy-oriented, imagination; impulsivity, lack of conscientiousness; anxiety, affective illness, emotional sensitivity; drive, ambition (non-social traits); norm-doubting, nonconformity, independence; hostility, aloofness, unfriendliness and a lack of warmth (social traits). The list of traits pertaining to scientists includes openness to experience, flexibility of thought; drive, ambition, achievement (non-social traits); dominance, arrogance, hostility, self-confidence; autonomy, introversion and independence (social traits). (Feist, 1999b).

It is easy to see that most characteristics found in creative people may be considered as both positive and negative. However, the situation is more complicated because the creative person is characterized by mutually exclusive traits.

Csikszentmihalyi (1996: 57) maintains that the most prominent trait in creative persons is complexity, that is, tendencies of combining thought and action that in most people are segregated:

They contain contradictory extremes - instead of being an "individual, " each of them is a "multitude". Like the color white that includes all the hues of the spectrum, they tend to bring together the entire range of human possibilities within themselves.

He lists ten pairs of apparently antithetical traits that are "often both present in such creative individuals and integrated with each other in a dialectical tension" (ibid.: 58): 1) energy and rest: 2) smart and na?ve (as in divergent thinking); 3) combination of playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility; 4) an alternation between imagination and fantasy at one hand, and a rooted sense of reality at the other; 5) extroversion and introversion; 6) humbleness and pride, ambition and selflessness, or competition and cooperation; 7) combination of "masculine" and "feminine" traits (the tendency towards androgyny); 8) traditional and conservative, rebellious and iconoclastic views; 9) passionate and objective attitudes to their work or the ambivalence of attachment and detachment; 10) openness and sensitivity that results in suffering and pain but also a great deal of enjoyment. He conclude that, '[T]he novelty that survives to change a domain is usually the work of someone who can operate at both ends of these polarities - and that is the kind of person we call "creative"' (ibid.: 76)

Another often-quoted trait of creative persons is adaptation which, however, has been interpreted in various meanings. The creative person is characterized by a high degree of autonomy, introversion and self-management. Curiosity, interest, passion, and fruitful asynchrony are among other factors conducive to creativity.

Among the traits that impede creativity, the most often quoted is conformity, perceptual set and habit.

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