Letter: Courting trouble

December 21, 2000

Explanations of men's creative peak and decline have been around for some while ("Fancy a look at my lab, darling?" THES, December 8). Retrospective studies reveal that the period of creative achievement can vary widely according to the field of endeavour: many mathematicians and musicians peak close to puberty, while philosophers sometimes peak when many of us are thinking of our P45s.

How does that fit with the theory of creativity as a male mating strategy that Raj Persaud reports? What about men whose enthusiasm for courtship display is not associated with enthusiasm for marriage? What about the creative contributions of homosexuals or of women in fields where their creativity is socially accepted? And how might we accommodate the views of those artificial intelligence researchers who are keen to include computers in the set of systems manifesting creativity?

As if these problems are not enough for the socio-biological theorist to deal with, we must add evidence that links creative endeavours with mental illness and abuse. This contradicts theories of creativity as an expression of mental health, which say personal growth is linked to psychological openness.

It is hardly surprising that studies of the creative individual have lost ground to social constructionist theories and to postmodern deconstructions of terms such as genius, inspiration and individual creativity.

Tudor Rickards
Professor of creativity and organisational change
Manchester Business School

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