Is Originality Dead? Research Finds Humans Are Becoming Less Creative

Surprised? We’re not.

Have you ever noticed how entertainment is just rehashing old material but giving it a fancier coating? Television reboots, movie sequels, franchise revivals--more often than not, all this unlimited content we see in our screens seem like recycled versions of old stories. If you think originality is dead, you’re not the only one. Scientists have found that creativity test scores have been on the decline for decades.

It seems contradictory, but there actually is a test for creativity. It’s called The Torrance Test, and it’s been used for decades not to “grade” creativity, but more to measure it. It’s made up of verbal tasks and non-verbal tasks that include drawing and shapes, and its creator, psychologist Ellis Paul Torrance found that this creativity test was a better indicator of success than the typical IQ test. He followed the thousands of careers of thousands of test-takers and made sure to note whenever they made an achievement.

Unfortunately, according to a researcher at the University of William and Mary, U.S., Torrance creativity scores have been steadily declining since the ‘90s, and we’re now in the middle of a “creativity crisis.” Mental health author Michael Easter explains how scientists blame “hurried, over-scheduled lives” and increasing amount of time in front of electronics.

Overstimulation of modern society is taking the fun right out of our lives. With so many options and so much to do all time, whether it’s browsing social media or playing on a Switch, there’s no time to do the one thing that is guaranteed to lead to true creativity: boredom.


Regardless what people say about productivity and “making time” to be creative, boredom has long been confirmed to be the key ingredient for imagination. Boredom triggers a state of “mind wandering” or daydreaming, a reflex for our minds to create stimulation if we can’t find it ourselves. This state of mind wandering can lead to breakthrough ideas if we just give ourselves the downtime to be, well, bored.

“The key to improving creativity might be to occasionally do nothing at all,” says Easter. “Or at least, not dive into a screen. We’ll think distinctly, in a way that delivers more original ideas.”

Overstimulation is the beginning of the end of creativity. If you want to truly be an innovator, be bored (but don't be boring).

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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