Tag Archives: talent

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.

Eye color and athletic ability

3158106923_c9171e0b9e_zIt’s fun exploring all the different ways our body type or certain traits can influence our athletic ability. Yet hardly anyone pays attention to something like eye color when it comes to athleticism since eye color doesn’t suggest any obvious advantage, unlike height giving a basketball player an advantage in basketball, or the advantages of having an extra thick cranium in boxing.

And yet it appears that eye color does influence how well we perform at certain sports. How, I don’t know, but it is interesting to see what the science says about this. According to the Department of HPES/Crawford Gym, University of Louisville, KY:

Researchers investigating performance differences between light- and dark-eyed individuals have indicated that dark-eyed individuals perform better on reactive activities than light-eyed individuals. College students (61 men, 64 women) performed a forehand rally with different colored racquetballs. Eye color, sex, and total hits were recorded for each subject. Men scored significantly better with balls of each color than did women. Dark-eyed men performed better than other subjects and performance was better with blue balls than yellow or green balls.

There doesn’t seem to be any explanation for why this is, and more research is needed. Perhaps the color of the iris influences how much light reaches the retina, and so a blue-eyed person sees things slightly differently and this explains why they are worse at reactive activities compared to brown-eyed people? Even the color of the balls seems to be of significance, to the point I may consider using blue juggling balls.

A little more info from the University of Louisville:

Researchers continue to examine the distinctiveness of motor performance by dark- versus light-eyed individuals. Dark-eyed individuals generally perform better at reactive type tasks (boxing, hitting a ball, defensive positions in football, rotary pursuit), while light-eyed individuals perform better at self-paced tasks (bowling, golf, pitching baseballs). Subjects performed two tasks, rotary pursuit and ball tossing (with light and dark background). Eye color (light or dark) and accuracy of performance were recorded for each subject. No significant difference was found between eye color and performance on the pursuit rotor (reactive activity). A significant difference was found between men’s and women’s performance in throwing a ball (self-paced activity) at a light-colored background.

These are intriguing findings. Dark-eyed individuals better at boxing? It may be premature to apply whatever was learned from these studies, but it will be fun experimenting with different colored balls or objects while playing sports to see what happens. Just don’t start any fist fights with anyone to try to prove these findings.