How do we know if we’re creative? While it can be a hard concept to define, and even more difficult to measure, scientists have developed a way of assessing one aspect of our creativity with a simple test.
You can take the test yourself and it only takes a few minutes, but it is most accurate if you don’t know how the score is generated.
Head over to the project page, have a go, and come back to read all about it.
Here’s a breakdown of how your score was calculated and why it matters.
How the test works
The Divergent Association Task (DAT) asks participants (including you) to name ten nouns which are as far apart in meaning as possible.
For example, “cat” and “pineapple” would be more different than “cat” and “dog”.
A computer algorithm then measures the semantic distance – how far apart the words are in meaning and how often they are used in the same context – between the nouns the person submitted.
The test aims to measure an individual’s verbal creativity and their ability to come up with diverse answers to an open-ended problem, also called divergent thinking.
After analysing responses from 8,914 volunteers, the researchers found the DAT test is comparable to current methods of predicting how creative a person is.
“Several theories posit that creative people are able to generate more divergent ideas,” the researchers wrote in their paper, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“If this is correct, simply naming unrelated words and then measuring the semantic distance between them, could serve as an objective measure of divergent thinking.”
The newly-developed test was compared against two that are already used to measure creativity: the Alternative Uses Task – involving thinking of as many uses as possible for an object; and the Bridge-the-Associative Gap Task – where you link two words using a third word.
The results found the DAT test was just as useful as the more complicated measures currently used.
Additionally, the data suggests the test is effective across different demographics, making it a suitable choice for conducting large studies.
Why this matters
Though many of us won’t be conducting studies on creativity any time soon and only one aspect of creativity is scored here, this new test could make the difficult task of studying creativity a little more simple.
“Our task measures only a sliver of one type of creativity,” said psychologist Jay Olsen from Harvard University, who is the paper’s first author.
“But these findings enable creativity assessments across larger and more diverse samples with less bias, which will ultimately help us better understand this fundamental human ability.”
This article originally appeared on Over60.