The Role of IQ in Making Art

I was relieved to learn that I am not damned by my life-long fear of being discovered to be less intelligent than everyone else. According to “Wired to Create,” by Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman, a cognitive psychologist, and the scientific director of the Imagination Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, and Carolyn Gregoire, a Huffington Post writer, you don’t have to have a high IQ to be creative, to be an artist:

“…creativity is not merely expertise or knowledge but is instead informed by a whole suite of intellectual, emotional, motivational, and ethical characteristics.

The Role of IQ in Making Art
My copy of a Rembrandt self-portrait, done as a study of his painting style. Of particular interest was the background, so  dark, so dim was the light.             I loved it.

“Given the complex and ever-changing nature of the creative process, it should come as little surprise that creative people tend to have messy minds. Highly creative work blends together different elements and influences in the most novel, or unusual, way…”

In Christie Aschwanden’s Feb. 8, 2016 NYT Review of Books‘ review of Wired to Create, I learned that, “Contrary to the well-worn notion that creativity resides in the right side of the brain, research shows that creativity is a product of the whole brain, relying especially on what the authors call the “imagination network” — circuits devoted to tasks like making personal meaning, creating mental simulations and taking perspective.

While creative people run the gamut of personalities, Dr. Kaufman’s research has shown that openness to experience is more highly correlated to creative output than I.Q., divergent thinking or any other personality trait. This openness often yields a drive for exploration, which ‘may be the single most important personal factor predicting creative achievement,’ the authors write. ‘These are people energized and motivated by the possibility of discovering new information: It’s the thrill of the knowledge chase that most excites them.’”

In reflecting how that matches my experience, I know I use my camera to discover new things, as a way to SEE in a more personal, detailed, up-close experience that is not fully realized until I have worked closely with image in Photoshop or another app.  I “think” in images, converse with myself during the process of taking the photo, responding to it emotionally and as an artist, and then as I process it to bring out, or crop or focus on aspects of the photo that are interesting to me. The whole process is a kind of a visual exchange, formalistic and very personal. My photography is NOT in any way photojournalism, but more a visual diary, painted with light and color. IQ does not factor into any of what I’m describing.

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.”Albert Einstein

The Role of IQ in Making Art
The entirety of my creative output involves a visceral response to looking deeply at and seeing things, often close-up, almost like seeing them for the first time, like the velvet depth of these tulips that looked like peonies.

Further proof that creativity is not bound inextricably to IQ comes from the early 20th century psychologist, Dr. Louis Terman, who developed an intelligence test to screen and identify “the best” applicants to Stanford University. He found that high IQs were not necessarily a predictor of creative genius–the kind of genius that leads to prizes like the Nobel Prize.

“Although many people continue to equate intelligence with genius, a crucial conclusion from Terman’s study is that having a high IQ is not equivalent to being highly creative. Subsequent studies by other researchers have reinforced Terman’s conclusions, leading to what’s known as the threshold theory, which holds that above a certain level, intelligence doesn’t have much effect on creativity: most creative people are pretty smart, but they don’t have to be that smart, at least as measured by conventional intelligence tests.”

What a relief for those of us who didn’t score high marks on the Stanford-Binet! I feel like I’ve been given a “safe passage” to let loose in the great universe of creative expression (not that I really held back before, but I did feel that I didn’t have the “expertise” and gravitas that a high IQ would confer on the entirety of my creative output).

Expect to read more–and see more–in this blog of how making things has opened the doors and windows to previously unimagined ideas and images, has led to a sense of well-bring, and in particular (since it is, after all, my blog), how it has provided me physical and mental peace, resilience, and optimism.

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”
Martha Graham

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