The Perceived Association Between Agentic Traits and Creativity: Implications for Gender Bias and Creativity Evaluation

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Across nine studies, this dissertation examines whether creativity is perceived to be associated with agentic traits and explores the implications of this perceived association for gender bias and creativity evaluation. Specifically, I test whether the propensity to think creatively tends to be associated with independence and self-direction, qualities generally ascribed to men—leading to men often appearing to be more creative than women. I find that creativity tends to be popularly conceived of as involving “outside the box” divergent thinking (Pre-test) and “outside the box” creativity is more strongly associated with stereotypically masculine characteristics (i.e., daring, self-reliant) than stereotypically feminine characteristics (i.e., cooperative, supportive; Study 1). Archival evidence suggests that men’s ideas are evaluated as more ingenious than women’s ideas (Study 2). In experiments I show that a man is ascribed more creativity than a woman when both produce identical output (Study 3a and Study 3b). I also demonstrate that stereotypically masculine behavior enhances a man’s perceived creativity, while identical behavior does not enhance a woman’s perceived creativity. This boost in perceived creativity is mediated by attributions of agency, not competence, and predicts reward deservingness (Study 4). Finally, I find that the perceived agency of a target specifically predicts perceptions of his product’s novelty, not usefulness (Study 5) and that independence-based agency is perceived to be more strongly associated with creative thinking than dominance-based agency (Study 6a and Study 6b). These findings suggest that judgments of how agentic a person is (i.e., independent, self-reliant) may influence evaluations of that person’s creativity and that a gendered lay theory of creativity may be a factor hindering the achievement of gender equality in the workforce.






Proudfoot, Devon (2017). The Perceived Association Between Agentic Traits and Creativity: Implications for Gender Bias and Creativity Evaluation. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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