“The Creative Personality,” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Psychology Today, July/August 1996, http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/pto-19960701-000033.html.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a pioneering researcher in talent and expertise. His books Creativity and Flow are influential works, his thoughts on positive psychology have clear implications for meaningful conflict, and his work is mentioned from graduate courses to blogs.
Yet a short piece by him makes me wonder if he is a pseudoscientist.
My class in scopes and methods has strongly emphasized positivism — the ability to prove something wrong — as a touchstone of science. What, then, to make of these “traits of the creativity personality” as described by Csikszentmihalyi
- Energetic but restful
- Smart yet naive
- Playful yet disciplined
- Imaginative yet realistic
- Extroverted yet introverted
- Humble yet proud
- Masculine yet feminine
- Rebellious yet conservative
- Passionate yet objective
- Open to pain yet open to enjoyment
Certainly these may be accurate descriptions — many of them came out in my interview with Thomas Barnett. Yet how could this ever be proven wrong? If you disagree with the masculine yet feminine characteristic, for example, what possible collection of cases would disprove it? None, because any piece of evidence fulfills at least part of the paradox.
Perhaps there is some precise definition Csikszentmihalyi gives here or elsewhere. This may just be a non-operationalized hypothesis. For instance, we rarely use the OODA loop to make precise predictions, yet that doesn’t mean it couldn’t become scientific.
So tdaxp community — any thoughts? Aaron? Mark?