Well, color us surprised: People tend to believe creative, "outside-the-box" thinking is a masculine trait and that men are more creative than women, according to September 2015 research published in the journal Psychological Science.
Duke University researchers carried out four small online surveys and found that the participants more often associated creativity with "typical male qualities," such as decisiveness, competitiveness, risk-taking, ambition and daring than they did with "typical female qualities," such as cooperation, understanding and supporting others.
In one of the online surveys, participants rated a fictional male architect as more creative than a fictional female architect – even though they produced identical designs. This was not the case, however, when participants rated a fictional male fashion designer and a fictional female fashion designer, presumably because fashion is not considered a masculine domain.
Sorry, we're still hung up on something — how is creativity not considered a feminine trait?
"Since women are the ones who 'create' life in their womb, we would think they'd be seen as the ones who 'give birth' to more creative ideas," says Carole Lieberman, MD, a Beverly Hills-based psychiatrist. "But, a different perspective is gained when we look at the cavemen, whose task was to be the more risk-taking ones, going out to hunt game. So the key is that when people see risk-taking as a measure of creativity, it skews the results towards men."
Norman E. Rosenthal, MD, clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University of Medicine, finds the Duke research "fascinating."
"Creativity is a complex process," he says. "We can be creative in various ways — some of us are creative verbally, some of us are creative spatially, some of us are creative in our interpersonal relationships — creativity is such a multifaceted experience. So the fact that people are willing to lump it all into one bag and say, 'Men are better than women,' in my mind, speaks more to prejudice than to any real underlying difference, which would have to be tested."
But even if creativity is difficult to define as more masculine or feminine, other gender stereotypes and biases live on. Dr. Lieberman explains this with an interesting analogy, courtesy of Hollywood:
"In the movie, The Intern, the lead female character (played by Anne Hathaway) is the one who created, or 'gave birth,' to a start-up company that sells tailored clothes on the Internet," she says. "Although her company has surpassed all expectations of success, the venture capitalists put pressure on her to hire a male CEO to be her boss. She resists and continues on her own. This illustrates how society believes in the stereotype of men being more creative, even though it was, in fact, a woman."