This research was conducted by Devon Proudfoot, Aaron C. Kay and Christy Z. Koval at Duke University, USA.


Even when producing identical outputs, men are perceived as more creative than women, and ‘outside-the-box’ creative thinking is associated with stereotypically masculine characteristics. The study provides a statistical analysis of reactions to online TED Talks showing that ingenuity is heavily more associated with men than women. When it comes to evaluations at work, women are seen as less innovative. Characteristics typically attributed to men enhance their perceived creativity, whereas the same behaviours in women do not have the same results.

Women in high-power positions are seen as less innovative than men when evaluated by their supervisors

The study found discrepancies in how creativity is perceived in high-level female employees depending on whether the judgement comes from their supervisor or direct reports. This discrepancy is non-existent when male high-level employees are evaluated. Given that supervisors tend to make use of stereotypes when evaluating employees, these discrepancies substantiate the claim that female workers are stereotyped as less innovative than their male counterparts.

Other types of creativity must be studied as well

The fact that emphasis was put on ‘outside-the-box’ creativity suggests future research is needed to determine whether the study would generate similar results when creativity is understood as a social process (for example) that emphasises collaboration and integration of perspectives. It is expected that, under this new definition, women will be perceived as more creative.

This summary is by David Kohan Marzagao, King’s Knowledge Exchange Associate

Title A gender bias in the attribution of creativity: Archival and experimental evidence for the perceived association between masculinity and creative thinking
Author(s) Proudfoot, D., Kay, A. C., & Koval, C. Z.
Publication date 2015
Source Psychological Science, Vol 26, Iss 11, pp 1751-1761
Open Access Link
Author email