The Sociocultural Context of Exceptional Creativity: Historiometric Methods

  • Dean Keith SimontonEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Creativity and Culture book series (PASCC)


The social nature of creativity becomes rather conspicuous when studying creative genius. Not only do exceptional creators exert a phenomenal impact on the larger society and culture, but they are also very much the products of the sociocultural system. Yet several methodological problems confront the application of standard research methods in the case of creative genius. First, to comprehend this phenomenon fully requires that these creators be deceased, for only then can their sociocultural impact be accurately accessed (e.g., the “test of time”). That requirement immediately rules out laboratory experiments, surveys, psychometric assessments, and interviews. Second, a comprehensive understanding requires a transhistorical and cross-cultural perspective that examines the full range of social conditions responsible for the emergence (and non-emergence) of creative genius. Standard methods, in contrast, are extremely limited with respect to both time and place—to wit, contemporary creators living in Western or at least highly-Westernized societies. Hence arises a method uniquely designed to study the “psychology of genius” by applying quantitative measurement and statistics to historical and biographical data—the technique known as historiometrics or historiometry. The remainder of the chapter is devoted to outlining the key features of this method, including case sampling, unit definition, variable measurement, and statistical analysis.


Creativity Genius History Historiometrics Methodology 


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of California, DavisDavisUSA

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