Science Says Creativity Hits Its Peak at Age 57

It's later than you think for some.

We've all heard of people who didn't become successful until they were older, oftentimes after decades of struggling in their field. But we still tend to think that if inspiration hasn't struck us by a certain age, it's probably never going to happen—and we'd be wrong, scientifically speaking, that is. In a new study published in the journal De Economist, researchers found that creativity peaks in your mid-20s or your mid-50s.

The researchers analyzed the life cycles of 31 winners of the Nobel Prize in economics to reach their findings. "Many people believe that creativity is exclusively associated with youth, but it really depends on what kind of creativity you're talking about," Bruce Weinberg, a professor of economics at Ohio State University and lead author of the study, said in a university newsletter. "Our research suggests that when you're most creative is less a product of the scientific field that you're in and is more about how you approach the work you do."

Those who had a more conceptual approach to their work and tended to use assumptions, proofs, and equations were more likely to hit their creative peak in their younger days. But those who were experimental didn't hit their stride until later on in life, when they used all of the knowledge that they had accumulated in order to "think outside the box."

The implications of the findings aren't limited to the field of economics, according to Weinberg. The research actually builds upon a previous study that showed that while poets and physicists tend to produce their best work in their 20s, biologists and novelists tend to do so when they reach late middle age. But Weinberg's new study identified the specific ages at which creativity tends to hit its peak. For the conceptual laureates, it was often either at the age of 25 or 29. For the experimental ones, it wasn't until they were 57.

So if you're in your 40s and you still haven't found that great idea that'll make you famous, don't worry, you've got plenty of time. And for more proof that success doesn't necessarily favor the young, check out 40 People Who Became Famous After 40.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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