Gute & Csikszentmihalyi: DOI: 10.18536/jge.2016.

Jump to: Journal of Genius and Eminence | Volume 1

Assessing Psychological Complexity in Highly Creative Persons: The Case of Jazz Pianist and Composer Oscar Peterson

Gary Gute and Deanne Gute
Creative Life Research Center, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
University of Northern Iowa

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Quality of Life Research Center, Division of Behavioral and Organizational Sciences
Claremont Graduate University

Oscar Peterson, interviewed for the Creativity in Later Life (CLL) Project (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996), was one of the most influential jazz pianists of the 20th Century. Analysis of the CLL transcripts suggests that highly creative persons such as Peterson build their psychological complexity, a rich repertoire of cognitive, social, emotional, and behavioral capabilities represented by “opposites,” including extraversion and introversion, as a result of decades of ongoing, systematic person-context interactions. The article reports rater-administered assessments of Peterson’s personality using the NEO-FFI (Costa & McCrae, 1992) and the California Adult Q-Sort (Block, 1990). Both measures fell short of capturing Peterson’s complexity. Drawing from the interview transcript, the article details examples of Oscar Peterson’s complexity on the Extraversion-Introversion dimension, providing evidence that he intentionally and consistently engaged in characteristic adaptations. This process built capacities associated with introversion, which, in turn contributed to helping him meet creative challenges. The findings support the argument that psychological complexity should be empirically investigated as a promising construct for illuminating the personalities of eminently creative persons and helping to explain the development of their capacity for achievement.

Gute, G., Gute, D., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2016). Assessing psychological complexity in highly creative persons: The case of jazz pianist and composer Oscar Peterson. Journal of Genius and Eminence, 1(1), 16-27. http://dx.doi.org/10.18536/jge.2016.