Daily Archives: March 14, 2013

Creativity and androgyny

Every now and then, something many of us suspect does turn out to have some scientific validity, even if only preliminary. Indeed, it almost feels refreshing to have science on your side for once, since so many of our beliefs don’t stand up to scientific scrutiny. I’ve had countless ideas of mine destroyed by science.

When it comes to artistic talent or creativity, there is a stereotype of the male artist as being “effeminate” or “androgynous”. When a man is described as “androgynous” this means he isn’t particularly masculine. An androgynous woman on the other hand is more masculine, on average. I am in no way implying there is anything even remotely wrong with being either effeminate or androgynous or for women to be masculine. If anything, since creativity is considered a good thing, being androgynous, which is linked with creativity, should then also be considered good.

Interestingly enough, some scientists decided to put this to the test, to see if androgyny is in fact linked with creativity and artistic talent. According to the University of Tübingen, Department of Clinical and Physiological Psychology, which did a study on Testosterone and artistic talents:

Musical composers, instrumentalists, and painters were compared with nonmusicians from a student and from an nonstudent population on testosterone levels in saliva. This steroid served as a marker for physiological androgyny. The ANOVA showed a significant group by sex interaction. Male composers attained significantly lower mean testosterone values than male instrumentalists and male nonmusicians; female composers had significantly higher mean testosterone values than female instrumentalists and female nonmusicians. Painters of both sexes did not differ significantly from controls. Spatial ability was assessed in the five groups. Significant differences on spatial test performance were not reflected in differences on salivary testosterone. Our results showed that musical composers of both sexes were physiologically highly androgynous. Creative musical behavior was associated with testosterone levels that minimized sex differences.

So both male and female composers are more androgynous than instrumentalists and painters? Interesting. Since this is just one small study, it is very difficult to come to any firm conclusions about how this applies to the “big picture”. Also, this is just co-relational study, it doesn’t mean that higher testosterone in women or lower testosterone in men causes them to be more creative when it comes to music.

But, assuming this is not just co-relational, but that testosterone is a causal mechanism, does it imply that if a man wants to be more creative, he should inject himself with estrogen or lower his testosterone levels? I am so totally not recommending such a thing. Not only is it ridiculous, but potentially very dangerous.

I’m always on the lookout to boost my creativity, and to find its correlates, so I naturally stumble upon strange studies like this. As for me, I am not messing with my testosterone levels.