Creativity: Prodigy or Late Bloomer? Conceptual or Experimental?Gladwell and Galenson vs. Simonton and WinnerWith Pink Weighing Inentered by Bonnie Cramond


Malcolm Gladwell had an article in the New Yorker on October 20, 2008 in which he remarked on some research by an economist at the University of Chicago named David Galenson.

Gladwell's article in the New Yorker 10/20/2008 was entitled, Late Bloomers: Why do we equate genius with precocity? He reported on Galenson's work thus:

"Genius, in the popular conception, is inextricably tied up with precocity—doing something truly creative, we’re inclined to think, requires the freshness and exuberance and energy of youth...A few years ago, an economist at the University of Chicago named David Galenson decided to find out whether this assumption about creativity was true. He looked through forty-seven major poetry anthologies published since 1980 and counted the poems that appear most frequently. Some people, of course, would quarrel with the notion that literary merit can be quantified. But Galenson simply wanted to poll a broad cross-section of literary scholars about which poems they felt were the most important in the American canon. The top eleven are, in order, T. S. Eliot’s “Prufrock,” Robert Lowell’s “Skunk Hour,” Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” William Carlos Williams’s “Red Wheelbarrow,” Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Fish,” Ezra Pound’s “The River Merchant’s Wife,” Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy,” Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro,” Frost’s “Mending Wall,” Wallace Stevens’s “The Snow Man,” and Williams’s “The Dance.” Those eleven were composed at the ages of twenty-three, forty-one, forty-eight, forty, twenty-nine, thirty, thirty, twenty-eight, thirty-eight, forty-two, and fifty-nine, respectively. There is no evidence, Galenson concluded, for the notion that lyric poetry is a young person’s game. Some poets do their best work at the beginning of their careers. Others do their best work decades later. Forty-two per cent of Frost’s anthologized poems were written after the age of fifty. For Williams, it’s forty-four per cent. For Stevens, it’s forty-nine per cent."
According to Gladwell, Galenson claimed the same was true for film makers and painters. The two painters that he used as examples were Picasso and Cezanne. Although Picasso was described as an "Incandescent prodigy" whose first masterpiece was produced at twenty, Cezanne's work was described as having a very different trajectory. Gladwell/Galenson claimed that Cezanne's best work was not done until near the end of his career. From these and a few other examples, Galenson concluded that prodigies are more conceptual artists with a clear idea of where they want to go from the outset, and late bloomers are more experimental needing more time to do incremental work seeking their goal.Click to hear an interview with Malcolm Gladwell: gladwell.mp3
You can read an interview with Galenson and even read his book online.books.jpeg
Late Bloomer?OldArtist.jpg
Dean Keith Simonton and Ellen Winner disagree!You can read Daniel Pink's take on Galenson's work in Wired "What kind of genius are you?"References, too! on page 2

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