Research shows that striving for excellence, but striving for perfection, increases creativity

A new study has been published British Journal of Psychology If you want to improve your creativity, it is better to strive for excellence than to offer perfection. Students who excelled in both studies performed better than students who excelled in creative tasks.

Perfectionists are people who strive for perfection, set high standards for themselves, and are highly critical of their behavior. Although perfectionism has been the subject of much research, it remains unclear how the concept relates to creative thinking. Because creativity requires flexibility and openness to mistakes, perfectionists can be creatively short. But perfectionists are also expected to excel in creativity, because creative pursuits require perseverance and dedication – qualities that are characteristic of perfectionists.

A team of researchers from the University of Ottawa suggested that these conflicting expectations could be explained by the difference between striving for excellence and perfection. Their opinion is based on a theory called Excellency and Perfectionism Model (MEP), developed by one of the study’s authors, Patrick Godro.

The model explains that although the concepts of excellence and perfectionism are related, they differ in their goals. While both concepts involve the pursuit of very high standards, excellence is flexible, and perfectionism is unforgivable. Perfectionism is not limited to the pursuit of excellence and seeks perfection.

Jean-Christophe Gule-Pelle, a doctoral student at the University of Ottawa and author of the study, explained that “standards of perfection have a significant impact on the creation process.” “It affects people’s motivation, emotions and behavior. High aspirations can be encouraging, but when set too high, they can harden people’s behavior. We wanted to know whether the pursuit of perfection is beneficial, neutral, or harmful to creative thinking. ”

In two other studies, researchers look at how perfectionism and perfectionism relate to different aspects of creativity. In the first study, 280 students from a Canadian university responded to questionnaires and then completed a creative task that measured divergent thinking and creativity. The task required students to come up with creative ways to use everyday items to test their ability to find multiple ways to solve a problem.

The results showed that students received high marks for the best academic performance (for example, “My goal in school is to study very well.”) They showed high creative thinking – they gave a large number of answers to the task, as well as more original answers. . On the contrary, students scored high on academic perfectionism (e.g., “My goal at school is to excel”).

Further, students who were classified as “aspiring to excel” (students with high excellent scores and low personal scores) received higher scores on both indicators of openness to experience and creative thinking than those who aspired to perfection. points of perfectionism).

Subsequent research in the second sample of students repeated these findings using dispositional measures of perfectionism and excellence (e.g., “My overall purpose in life as a person…”). This second study also expanded the results to an additional level of performance, giving students the task of combining words to test their ability to generate ideas without measuring creativity.

“Aim for lofty and personal goals for an important part of the creative process. However, people should be wary of pursuing goals that leave little room for them to explore opportunities and express themselves, ”Gulet-Pelletti told PsyPost.

Researchers point to a number of reasons why perfectionism hinders creativity. First, perfectionists may be over-motivated to find quick and flawless solutions, leading them to focus on conventional strategies and avoid new and unknown strategies. Second, excessive analytics and critique of their work can prevent perfectionists from achieving a creative flow. Similarly, excessive suspicion of their actions may interfere with their cognitive participation and concentration.

The authors of the study wrote, “The pursuit of perfection above excellence limits experimentation, spontaneity, and openness.” “Releasing the constraint of perfection means changing the narrative to be‘ better if it is not always perfect ’(Nord-Bates, 2020, p. 31). Thus, our findings suggest that excellence may be an alternative to striving for ideal standards.

The authors noted that their research used a small number of creative and associative tasks, which could jeopardize the generalization of their conclusions. Future research should explore additional creative tasks and be aware that findings can be replicated in other aspects of creative achievement.

“There are a lot of issues that need to be addressed,” Gule-Pellettier explained. “Our study did not specify which mechanism explained the negative impact of perfectionism on creative thinking. In addition, creativity and perfectionism are different in different contexts of life, such as work and so on. in art. Another line of questions is to understand what happens when creativity is needed to achieve perfection?

“As a general comment for the reader, I would like to emphasize that a study has never been included enough to draw any conclusions,” he said. “Results are sometimes reinterpreted on the basis of new theories. It is necessary to combine and repeat the effects to determine their reliability.

The study asked, “Is protectionism a killer of creative thinking? A test of the model of excellence and perfectionism, ”by Jean-Christophe Gule-Pelle, Patrick Godro and Denis Cusinho.

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