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The current studies provide evidence of two distinct implicit theories of creative ideas and so help to resolve the debate over differences in creativity assessments between Chinese and American samples. In three studies using three methodologies (qualitative inductive, cultural consensus modeling, and experimental), we used data from 2,140 participants to reveal 26 domain general cues that can indicate whether a product or process is creative. About 95 percent of the Chinese used a broad range of cues, whereas about 75 percent of the Americans used a narrow range of cues. Members of both cultures found cues such as breakthrough, surprise, and potential to indicate creativity. In contrast, cues such as easy to use, feasible, and for a mass market were indicators of creativity for most Chinese and noncreativity for most Americans. Thus, in addition to domain knowledge, knowledge about creativity itself contributes to creativity assessments. Cross-cultural differences in knowledge about creativity can help explain differences in how members of different cultures assess creativity. These findings have implications for the scholarly conceptual definition of creativity and suggest an array of possibilities for research on creativity and innovation.

Editor’s Comment

Social scientists discovered in this study that people from different cultures assess creativity quite differently. They gathered evidence of how people judge creativity, using a novel cultural consensus methodology and conducting a series of randomized experiments. Their findings showed that Chinese and Americans possess quite distinct implicit theories of creativity. Chinese hold a much broader view of creativity. They judge creativity based on a wider bandwidth of cues. To the Chinese, creativity spans beyond novelty cues to include attributes such as rarity, having mass market appeal, being fun to engage with, and others. By contrast, Americans use a narrower set of cues to define creativity. To the Americans, creativity is judged largely based on novelty cues. We expect this set of findings using the authors’ novel cultural consensus methodology to spark new waves of inquiry and theorizing into the etic and emic dimensions of constructs across cultures. As for practical implications, the discovery that people from different cultures do assess creativity quite differently reveals critical insights into the consumer psyche of the Americans and the Chinese.

Soon Ang, Action Editor

Whiteboard Video Abstract


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