How we judge a creative idea is affected by how we perceive its inventor. Without realizing it, we may overvalue or undervalue a new concept and make poor choices in the product development process as a result.
Researchers Izabela Lebuda and Maciej Karwowski1 studied how gender of the inventor and the uniqueness of the inventor’s name affect one’s perception of the invention itself. They divided 119 participants into five groups to evaluate creative products in four domains (poetry, science, music, and art). Each group evaluated the same, identical products, but the products were signed by different fictional names – a unique male name, a common male name, a unique female name, and a common female name. The fifth group evaluated the products with no names (control group).
The highest creativity score was earned by a painting signed with a unique female name, while the lowest went to that same painting with a common female name. For the science-related products, works signed by any male name scored much higher than the same products signed by women. In fact, the science product signed by a common female name scored even lower than the anonymous control group. In the area of music, any piece signed by a unique male name was rated highest. Poems, on the other hand, got the best scores when signed by a unique female name and the lowest from a common male name.
For practitioners, this systematic bias caused by gender and other factors can lead us astray. For example, science is still perceived as male-dominated, and we may have a tendency to downgrade new science concepts generated by women. In other domains, literary and artistic, we may put too much of a premium on works generated by women with unique names.
To avoid this bias, consider the following advice:
1Izabela Lebuda and Maciej Karwowski, “Tell Me Your Name and I’ll Tell You How Creative Your Work Is: Author’s Name and Gender as Factors Influencing Assessment of Products’ Creativity in Four Different Domains,” Creativity Research Journal, Vol. 25, Iss. 1, (2013), 137-142.