A young Picasso or Beethoven could be the next Edison

Oct 23, 2013
A child who paints has a greater chance of owning a patent or business when he or she grows up, according to new Michigan State University research. Credit: G.L. Kohuth, Michigan State University

Good news for parents: Those pricey piano lessons or random toy parts littering your floors may one day lead to the next scientific breakthrough.

That's according to new Michigan State University research linking childhood participation in arts and crafts activities to patents generated and businesses launched as adults.

In the study, which is published in the most recent edition of the journal Economic Development Quarterly, the researchers defined "childhood" as up to 14 years old.

The team of multidisciplinary researchers studied a group of MSU Honors College graduates from 1990 to 1995 who majored in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, or STEM. They found of that group, those who own businesses or patents received up to eight times more exposure to the arts as children than the general public.

"The most interesting finding was the importance of sustained participation in those activities," said Rex LaMore, director of MSU's Center for Community and Economic Development. "If you started as a young child and continued in your adult years, you're more likely to be an inventor as measured by the number of generated, businesses formed or articles published. And that was something we were surprised to discover."

Musical training seems to be important. The researchers found 93 percent of the STEM graduates reported at some point in their lives, as compared to only 34 percent of average adults, as reported by the National Endowment for the Arts. The STEM graduates also reported higher-than-average involvement in the visual , acting, dance and creative writing.

In addition, those who had been exposed to metal work and electronics during were 42 percent more likely to own a patent than those without exposure, while those involved in architecture were 87.5 percent more likely to form a company. And children with a photography background were 30 percent more likely to have a patent.

Why?

Such activity fosters out-of-the-box thinking, the researchers said. In fact, the group reported using artistic skills – such as analogies, playing, intuition and imagination – to solve complex problems.

"The skills you learn from taking things apart and putting them back together translate into how you look at a product and how it can be improved," said Eileen Roraback, of MSU's Center for Integrative Studies in the Arts and Humanities. "And there's creative writing. In our study, a biologist working in the cancer field, who created a business, said her writing skills helped her to write business plans and win competitions."

The results of the study could be crucial to rebuilding the U.S. economy, the researchers said.

"Inventors are more likely to create high-growth, high-paying jobs in our state, and that's the kind of target we think we should be looking for," LaMore said. "So we better think about how we support artistic capacity, as well as science and math activity, so that we have these outcomes."

Explore further: Interview blues—anxious, slow talkers often do not get the job

Related Stories

Arts-based activities could help toddlers' development

Jul 04, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—Parents taking part in interactive and arts-related activities with their two and three-year-olds could help promote their happiness and development of everyday skills, a study by researchers ...

Digital tool enhances writing instruction

Nov 08, 2011

Effective writing has never been more important to learning and career opportunities in this 21st century-knowledge economy. But teaching it well challenges schools and universities.

Recommended for you

Accountancy stereotypes add up to stable profession

3 hours ago

The media is littered with celebrity trainers, bakers, nutritionists, even gardeners. But, one profession is always missing from the roster - the celebrity accountant. The reason is most likely due to the negative stereotypes ...

Volunteers not safe from workplace bullying

4 hours ago

Despite the charitable nature of volunteering, new research from Murdoch University and Edith Cowan University has found one in three volunteers can experience workplace bullying.

The problem with solitary confinement

4 hours ago

It's a practice that has been in the news since the Ashley Smith case first made headlines and, last week, the Ontario government announced it had launched a review of its solitary confinement policies.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

L_Joyce
not rated yet Oct 23, 2013
Perhaps, but they're also indicative of involved parenting, which is likewise statistically associated with successful careers.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.