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Finding Creative Talent with a Simple Noun-Verb Test

One of the more popular posts over our first year is The Seven Characteristics of a Creative Employee along with a post on the "Messy Desk Clean Desk" Phenomena that reveals people with messy desks tend to be more creative.  Imagine that.

Now, a team of researchers led by Michigan State University neuroscientist Jeremy Gray has created a quick but reliable test that can measure a person's creativity from single spoken words.

The "noun-verb" test is so simple it can be done by virtually anyone anywhere -- even in an MRI machine, setting the stage for scientists to pinpoint how the brain comes up with unusually creative ideas.
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Sample Noun - Verb Responses from the study
To the noun, "leaf", 43.7% of participants replied, "fall."  Other common noun-verb responses include, taxi => drive 38%; coal => burn 45% and so on.  These results should lead to the development of a standardized Noun Verb Creativity Test.
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"We want to understand what makes creativity tick, what the specific processes are in the brain," Gray said. "Innovation doesn't just come for free -- nobody learns their ABCs in kindergarten and suddenly writes a great novel or poem, for example. People need to master their craft before they can start to be creative in interesting ways."

For his latest research, 193 participants were shown a series of nouns and instructed to respond creatively with a verb in each case. The test took about two minutes.

For the noun "chair," for example, instead of answering with the standard verb "sit," a participant might answer "stand," as in to stand on a chair to change a light bulb. The researchers checked that the answers were in fact verbs and somehow related to the noun; excluding the few nonsensical responses made no difference to the results.

The participants also were measured for creativity through a series of more in-depth methods including story writing, drawing and their creative achievements in real life.

The results: Those who gave creative answers in the noun-verb test were indeed the most creative as measured by the more in-depth methods. This suggests a yet to be published noun-verb test could be successful by itself in measuring creativity.

"Ultimately, this work could allow us to create better educational and training programs to help people foster their creativity," Gray said.
The research also could be helpful in settings where selecting creative people is important, such as the human resources office, he said.
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More on the Noun-Verb Test as it becomes available.


Story Source:  Ranjani Prabhakaran, Adam E. Green, Jeremy R. Gray. Thin slices of creativity: Using single-word utterances to assess creative cognition. Behavior Research Methods, 2013

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