First, I shall paraphrase what every article written around this paper is stating: “Creativity peaks during our early 20’s and then again in our 50’s. But let’s focus on the early 20’s.”
Complete waste of time BBC “news” article with irrelevant and unrelated image attached here:
And the original Ohio State University study here, which you probably don’t want to waste your time reading either:
This paper studies life cycle creativity among Nobel laureate economists. We identify two distinct life cycles of scholarly creativity. Experimental innovators work inductively, accumulating knowledge from experience. Conceptual innovators work deductively, applying abstract principles. We find that conceptual innovators do their most important work earlier in their careers than experimental laureates. For instance, our estimates imply that the probability that the most conceptual laureate publishes his single best work peaks at age 25 compared to the mid-50s for the most experimental laureate. Thus while experience benefits experimental innovators, newness to a field benefits conceptual innovators.
What an absolute steaming pile of bullshit filtered through the lens of shoddy journalism from a questionable, non-longitudinal study of a limited data set (31 non-participating subjects) that focused on a single data point (citations of a science paper) in a single field (economics) set up by two people who ranked (subjectively) the style of creativity someone demonstrates.
Interestingly, this quote: “…For the most conceptual laureate, the probability of a single best year peaks at age at age 24.8…” indicates a single data point of a single subject that can skew the story we are telling ourself (28.8 was the mean age for the first peak) which is just barely “in our 20’s”. Perhaps a rephrasing to “our late 20’s” might be better.
The results are inconclusive and the conclusion is so littered with “weasel words” like “could” and “may” I honestly thought I was reading a paper written by someone with commitment issues.
The paper also seems to be at odds with many of the papers it cites which state, quite clearly, that creativity is mid-30s to late-40s but also that “creativity” is not governed so much by age but by the absorption into the cultural mindset of the field and also where the person is in their career and their life.
There is a reason why theoretical mathematicians do their “best work” in their 30’s and multiple studies have found it has nothing to do with how creative they actually are.
There’s an awful lot of articles (none of which are linking to the original study but appear to be just parroting each other’s misconceptionw) written around this study, and everyone is throwing away forty years of psychological research in to how creativity works and its peaks and valleys, and quoting this paper as though it is the New Gospel and there are only two points in life where we are now creative. So we’re right back where we started with ageism and erroneously defining “creative peaks.”
This paper should be treated as what it is, another data point in how creativity works. We humans really need to stop the cycle of touting the latest paper as the final answer on a subject.
Creating and creativity to some, is like breathing, they cannot stop even if they wanted too.