Our Own Personal Style
While I did well in school it often did not hold my attention. Some things were fascinating and some things trivial. So frequently I “went out the window” which meant dreaming and exploring while the teacher went on his or her way. This process continued into graduate school. Some part of the subject matter was really interesting, other parts not so much.
As the time came closer for me to choose a doctoral dissertation topic I was working with a professor who held my interest. We were very different personality types but he engaged me and would challenge me in very useful ways. I liked that. He made me think.
Creativity Versus Intelligence
At the time he was studying creativity as it related to intelligence. Of course to some people that was a verboten area to explore. Creativity is simply supposed to be creative and that’s that. He didn’t view it that way. And his study came up with an interesting conclusion. Creativity and intelligence are orthogonal. Wow! Really?
Orthogonal is a rarely used word which means unrelated. The conclusion was that you could be really smart and not at all creative or really creative and not so smart in the ordinary sense. I liked that idea. It was what I would call unbinding. For one thing, we don’t have to put the creative types into scholarly straightjackets.
His studies led me to take a look at the literature about creativity in the psychological/psychiatric realm. What a hopeless morass. I did my major thesis (predoctoral) on the subject. I didn’t like what I found and neither did the professors who reviewed it. But it was what it was.
Eternal Gratitude to My Professor
But It led me to discuss doing my dissertation on the personality of the artist (painter in this instance). My professor thought it worth doing. At the same time such a dissertation is risky. In psychology you are to demonstrate your grasp of the scientific method and it is usually safest to pick up on a line of study, tweak it and do a dissertation study. I decided to take the risk.
At the time the department was deep into the work of Carl Jung and that meant in part we were looking at his personality typology which had been translated into an actual test called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Business people loved it, because once you know a person’s personality, it tells you a great deal about what jobs they will be best at.
Off To Hang Out With the Artists
The long and short of it was I set out for an art school in Richmond, Virginia. The faculty thought the study might be interesting so I went in and took photos of the paintings and paid the students the princely sum of $2 each to take the test. I had long and interesting discussions with the students and hanging out with them was great fun.
I took the data back to Duke and had the paintings rated on a variety of dimensions which then were compared statistically with the personality types. Most of the literature was floundering around in psychoanalytical thought. This time we had real evidence. And it worked.
Surprises and Validation
I’ll cut to the chase. Not surprisingly the majority of the students were primary intuitive types which fits because they were exploring visually and conceptually. There was a smaller subcategory of other types whose work was really, really different. If you ever see a dark painting of a bleak woods against an evening sky, the chances are you are looking at the work of a primary thinking type.
A couple of other things stood out. Contrary to expectations, the artists with thinking as an auxiliary had rich and deep color choices while the ones with feeling as an auxiliary had muted color choices. Some findings were consistent with hypotheses, some counterintuitive.
And then my professor asked me to do a different analysis. He wanted to know if the primary determinant of the effect was the type or whether there was an influence from the degree of that type. The analysis validated Jung’s contention. Within type there was the matter of degree but there was little variation. It was the type far and away that determined the characteristics of the art. My dissertation was easily defended and accepted.
What did we learn other than what was stated above? We learned about the power of what Jung had put together. I validated my perception that the psychoanalytic floundering was trash. And again, we learned the power of personality among other things I won’t bore you with. The paper was actually picked up by a major psychological journal. I had many other thoughts about such research but have never found the time. It’s interesting what’s out there if you go exploring and again it validated by love of the “What if”.
Coming: Starting in the fall I’m going to devote some of the columns to examining the different personality types. You will see yourself and other people as well. I think you’ll find it interesting.
I’m also going to write specific columns about the women in the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy. I think you will find them fascinating.
Are you surprised by any of these findings?
Gaia’s Majesty: Discovery Amazon page
Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page