Initial findings from a national survey of self-perception of creativity


Creativity and the arts have long been associated with one another. However, in recent years it
has become evident that creativity is not reserved for the archetypical “creative genius,” but is
rather a trait that all individuals experience and express in some way. Individuals’ ability to
develop and exercise creativity is becoming a more deeply valued attribute across many social
realms, including higher education and workforce development. The notion that creativity is a
natural impulse and is an asset from which to build has emerged as a core tenet of creative
placemaking, contributing to a shifting sense of the roles of the artist in contemporary society.
We are challenging the old narrative of “the starving artist” and are moving toward a concept
of the artist as an entrepreneur and agent for social change ‐ making artists and other creatives integral to community development and revitalization (Lingo and Tepper 2013, Markusen 2014, Bell and Oakley 2015, Cornfield 2015, Jackson et al. 2003). Consequently, unpacking how creativity works and how it is expressed on the individual level is a prevalent, multidisciplinary research priority. As notions of the value and applications of creativity expand, there has also been a collective broadening in the understanding of what it means to participate in artistic and creative activities. The new depth of our understanding is reflected in the National Endowment for Arts’ most recent Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA). Taken together, these shifting notions of creativity and artistry bring to light the many ways that people engage in creative expression and apply creativity to other realms of their lives–in essence, enacting those creative impulses we presume all to have.

One’s perception of self is critical to one’s day‐to‐day and longer‐term behaviors, affecting both
personal decisions and decisions about whether and how to engage with one’s community.
Self‐perception plays a critical role in one’s behavioral decision‐making processes. The
importance of its role in these processes calls into question how people perceive their own
artistic creativity and creative potential. It also calls into question how people’s self‐perceptions
may influence their general behaviors, specifically – and of particular interest in this working
paper—their arts‐related behaviors.

This working paper examines three questions:
A. How are self‐perceptions of artistic creativity correlated with self‐perceived
creativity in other domains?

B. Are there differences in sociodemographic characteristics in terms of how adults
perceive their own artistic creativity?

C. Is individuals’ self‐perceived artistic creativity a significant predictor of arts
attendance and art‐making?


Creativity is perceived differently in different demographic groups

“While prior research has shown that living in a higher‐income household is a generally reliable
predictor of higher arts participation, this study finds that those with lower incomes report
significantly higher levels of artistic creativity.”

“The question of how people feel empowered to exercise creativity in the enrichment of not
only their own lives, but also the vitality of their communities, lies beyond individuals’ creative
self‐perceptions and behaviors.”

“Adults aged 18‐29 reported significantly higher levels of self‐perceived artistic creativity on
average than adults aged 60 and older.”

“When looking at potential differences in creativity by gender identity, those who self‐identified
as female reported significantly higher levels of self‐perceived artistic creativity than adults who
self‐identified as male, on average. However, results are flipped for each of the other domains of creativity in which significant differences by gender identity were found. Self‐identified males reported significantly higher levels of creativity in the business/entrepreneurial and science/math/engineering domains than females.” (Stereotypes again? How is it shaped in children’s education for us to have these results in adult life?)

We also examined potential differences in self‐perceived creativity by geographic region within
the U.S. On average, adults living in the west and south report higher levels of self‐perceived
artistic creativity compared to adults living in the Midwest (MIDWEST!! why do they perceive themselves like this?)


Novak‐Leonard, J.L. & Robinson M.(2020). Initial findings from a national survey of self‐perceptions of creativity.