Do you silence your creativity to protect yourself?
According to Your Soul Spills Out: The Creative Act Feels Self-Disclosing, a recently published study that dives into the consequences of creativity — specifically, the self-disclosure aspect of expressing creative ideas — when you share a creative idea, people aren’t just making judgments about your idea…
…they’re also making judgments about you.
Jack A. Goncalo of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign first became interested in the link between creativity and self-disclosure after an enlightening comment from Goncalo’s real estate agent. Long story short, while looking at homes for sale and brainstorming ideas for new candle scents, the agent suggested an scent idea “so inappropriate that it stopped the conversation completely.” This made Goncalo start thinking about whether the creative ideas we share are revealing of our true selves and if being creative feels personally disclosing.
So, Goncalo teamed up with Josh Katz, also of the University of Illinois, for a series of five lab experiments:
- During three of the experiments, which involved a total of 600 participants, people were asked to come up with creative ideas as opposed to typical or normal ideas. Researchers found the participants were more likely to think their creative ideas revealed something about themselves.
- For the fourth experiment, which involved another 399 people, participants were asked to brainstorm ideas for new candle scents. Researchers found the participants felt their creative ideas were more self-disclosing when they were asked to stick to a particular category of ideas (for example, come up with only new fruit scents as opposed to any kind of scent).
- The fifth and final experiment involved 326 participants coming up with ideas and sharing them with one another. Researchers found the participants felt they showed more about their personalities when they shared creative ideas as opposed to conventional ones.
In the process of being creative, you rely on your own idiosyncratic point of view and unique preferences, thus making the ideas you share revealing of your true self. More importantly, other people listen to your ideas and make judgments about you. We found that when people heard another individual’s creative ideas, they became more confident that their judgments about their personality were accurate. People are not just judging your ideas, they are making personal judgments about you based on your ideas.
These findings don’t surprise me. I’ve often wondered if people formed thoughts about me based on my creative ideas, and I know I’ve made judgments, right or wrong, about others based on their creative ideas. I’m sure others do, too (I mean, it’s right there in the research!).
So, spinning off that, another wonder I have is: Do you silence your creativity to protect yourself?
- If we’re to believe that sharing our creative ideas is an act of self-disclosure (or, at the very least, gives people the tools to form an opinion about us that might or might not be accurate), is that something that makes some of us a little wary about expressing those ideas?
- Do we feel safer keeping our creativity to ourselves?
- If so, what does that say about how we feel about ourselves — that we’d rather avoid sharing our art with others than allow others to get a glimpse of who we really are?
And, if any of that’s true for us, how do we overcome it?