The acclaimed fable The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery declares children are much wiser and more creative than many adults. Can we regain that creative vitality?
In a post on her Scientific American blog Literally Psyched, Maria Konnikova writes that de Saint-Exupery makes a “larger point about creativity and thought [that] is difficult to overstate: as we age, how we see the world changes.
“It is the rare person who is able to hold on to the sense of wonderment, of presence, of sheer enjoyment of life and its possibilities that is so apparent in our younger selves.”
She quotes poet Charles Baudelaire: “Genius is no more than childhood recaptured at will, childhood equipped now with [an adult’s] physical means to express itself, and with the analytical mind that enables it to bring order into the sum of experience, involuntarily amassed.”
A 2010 study by a group of psychologists at North Dakota State University, Konnikova notes, “decided to test experimentally the intuitive notion that, as we leave our childhood selves behind, we leave also some of that creative inspiration that is the basis of original ideas, innovative thought, and prescient discovery.”
The study asked college students to write a short essay on the topic: Imagine school is cancelled for today. What would you do, think, and feel?
Konnikova reports, “All students answered the same question. But for one group, a single sentence was added to the instruction: You are seven years old… The average [creativity test] performance was about as expected—with one major exception.
“Those participants who were in the seven-year-old condition exhibited significantly higher levels of originality in thought. Both their verbal and figural responses left their more adult-minded counterparts in the dust.”
From The Big Lesson of a Little Prince: (Re)capture the Creativity of Childhood, By Maria Konnikova.
Top photo: “dennis child writer” By Jan Marlyn Reesman.
Bottom photo: “Future Picasso?” [apparently no longer online] by sallylondon – also used in the post on my main site: Childlike creativity: Nurturing Your Creative Mindset – which includes some commentary by Sherri Fisher of Positive Psychology News Daily about the same research study.
Child prodigy Adora Svitak (at age seven, she typed over 250,000 words — poetry, short stories, observations about the world — in a single year) says the world needs “childish” thinking: bold ideas, wild creativity and especially optimism.
The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
The Little Prince for Grown-ups: Using Jungian active imagination to uncover pearls of the masterpiece of Saint-Exupery, by Roberto Lima Netto Ph.D.
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Last reviewed: 23 Oct 2012