Creativity and normal adult ageing : a multi-method investigation
Creativity is a complex construct and can be studied from a number of perspectives. Despite the fact that it has been linked to successful ageing, relatively little research has directly examined the relationship between creativity and ageing in non-eminent samples. The major aim of this thesis therefore was to investigate the effects of normal adult ageing on creative activity, creative processes and creative products using a range of cognitive paradigms. A further aim was to investigate the role of potential mediating variables such as information processing speed, working memory, executive function and verbal knowledge. Across five studies, with participants aged from 17 to 82 years, age-related declines were found in a number of creative measures including self-reported frequency of participation in certain creative activities (e.g., artistic activities, photography, dancing) and self-rated creativity (study 1), several indices of divergent thinking (study 2), the number and complexity of creative mentally synthesised patterns (studies 3 and 4), and the subjectivity judged creativity of collages (study 5). In these measures, older participants (aged over 60 years) performed more poorly than younger participants (under 40 years old) or middle-aged participants (40 to 60 years old). Information processing speed and working memory appeared to explain these age-related changes; there was also evidence suggesting that executive and sensorimotor functions may account for the observed differences. However, no age differences were found in overall levels of self-reported creative activity, and participation in solitary creative activities (e.g., gardening, needlework) showed age-related increases. Taken as a whole, the current findings concur with previous research using eminent creators: higher levels of creativity are generally found in younger and/or middle-aged adults, with a decline being evident in old age. However, more work is needed to fully understand the relationship between creativity and normal adult ageing, and the cognitive mechanisms responsible.