Psychological Tests of Creativity (or How to be a Performance Artist)  2011

Proposal for participatory project with video documentation.

Stemming from my ongoing interest in experimental psychology and psychological testing, the project seeks to explore the links between an objectively measured “creativity”, and a performative art practice.

A well-known psychological procedure for testing creativity is the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking. First developed by Ellis Paul Torrance in 1966, the experiment essentially requires its volunteers to come up with as many uses for an object – e.g. a brick – as possible. The results are then scored according to a set of criteria including fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration, and a level “creativity” is therefore awarded.

The proposal is to re-work this and other similar experiments, with help from professionals within the field. One aim would be to show parallels between what is produced in these tests and what is routinely employed by artists as a means to speak about the world we live in. Participants might therefore be encouraged to engage with my own problematic of how to “act differently” in the world.

The proposal was developed with the help of Dr Alex Forsythe (formerly Department of Psychology, Aberystwyth University) and Dr Viren Swami (Department of Psychology, University of Westminster), who writes:

One of the most famous tests in the measurement of creative thinking is the Torrence Test. Volunteers are required to come up with as many uses for an object (e.g., a brick) as possible. The results are then scored according to a set of criteria considered to be indicative of creative behaviour. Parallels between the Torrence Test and Dave Ball’s work can be observed in his video ‘Things to do with Biscuits.’

In this piece, a variety of actions were performed with biscuits. Ball stretches the Torrence Test through the selection of an everyday object, injecting absurdity by moving the creative domain into the outside world and using it in ways that challenge our expectations (e.g. placing a biscuit on a child’s swing and then pushing the swing).

It could be argued that the interaction between the object and the environment could reduce functionally fixated processes (i.e. overcoming bias in an object’s function), thus explaining why Ball was able to generate some 225 different “things to do with biscuits”.