Can creativity be inherited?

Creativity is one of those qualities that is frequently sought after in employees, but what exactly renders one creative is much harder to quantify.  Researchers have long pondered whether it’s something that is inherent in us (or not), or whether it’s something we can teach.

A recent study explored whether creative characteristics can in fact be passed down through our genes.  The researchers trawled through the Netherlands Twin Register, which covered 1,800 identical twins and 1,600 non-identical twins.

The register mentions the professions of each twin, with a specific coding provided for artistic professions, such as dance and theater.  In total, 233 of the twins fell into this category.

Genetic flair

The team were hoping to discover whether both twins were equally likely to go into artistic livelihoods.  If the ratio is broadly similar for identical and non-identical twins, it would suggest that genes play a tiny role in our choice of career.

When the data was analyzed, it revealed that this was not the case, with identical twins more likely to engage in similar careers than their non-identical peers.  Indeed, there was a 68% chance of similarity in identical twins versus just 40% for non-identical twins, suggesting genes may contribute a fairly large amount.  In the end, the researchers pinned heritability as contributing 70% of our choice in careers.

The study builds on previous works that have come to similar conclusions, suggesting that our genes play a strong role in our creativity levels.

I’d be wary of reading too much into the findings, and indeed, there are concerns about the self-reported nature of the findings versus more objective measures.  This alone creates enough doubt as to the role of genetics versus the various other personal characteristics that go into an artistic lifestyle.  Hopefully it will be a topic that merits further analysis in the coming years to delve further into these issues.

For now though, it’s an interesting topic that the research provides a fascinating slant on.


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