It’s almost common knowledge that technology increases creativity – almost.

Actually, the most recent research shows the opposite. Yes, it’s incredible, but technology apparently doesn’t help creativity at all. On the contrary, it can make it much harder to be creative.

Why Is Creativity Declining?

For the first time ever, there’s some research that shows that American creativity is declining. That might come as a surprise to you, since we have an endless supply of iPads and iPhones and other devices. But the results from the Torrance Test of Critical Thinking prove otherwise. It assesses Americans’ “CQ” or creativity quotient.

Technology

To measure something like this, researchers need to use a series of simple tests to track divergent thinking and other problem-solving skills. These skills are then scored on fluency, originality, elaboration, and flexibility.

The test was first developed by E. Paul Torrance and has been given to children, tracking them through adulthood since the 1950s. So, while the arm PC module has done wonders for work efficiency, it’s done nothing to improve creativity among children and adults.

Some researchers believe that the problem falls primarily on video games. What? You thought video games improved creative thinking? While there has been some research suggesting that video games can help with reaction time and coordination, you’re never told about its impact on creative thinking. The evidence is inconclusive, but some research suggests that some video games might be to blame because of the way problem solving is set up.

For example, many game designs assume a linear progression of events – that there’s only one way to solve the game. Gamers play into this idea and follow a set path to the finish line, but there’s no encouragement to try to solve the game any other way than the way that the designers intended.

Beat up the bad guy? Why not negotiate with him? What if there’s another way to kill the enemy besides thrusting your two-handed bastard sword into him? We’ll never know.

While many games come with predetermined answers, detailed imagery worlds are an important part of problem solving and creative thinking.

The Solution

Finger pointing won’t solve the problem. What will is perhaps a focus on doing everything possible to encourage people to be more creative. That might mean designing better computer systems and hardware that encourages users to think outside the box.

It might mean implementing better educational standards so that children aren’t bound by a rigid lesson plan – within reason. There’s still reality to contend with. 2 + 2 will always be 4, after all. But, that doesn’t mean that there’s only one way to build a bridge, play a video game, perform similar tasks at a job, or even live life to its fullest.

In many ways, what people need is to rediscover their inner child. They need to relearn how it is they got to be an adult in the first place: by experimenting, taking risks, and inventing solutions to everyday problems and challenges with no idea whether they would work or not.