Intellect: visual artists vs scientists + Big-C vs pro-c


The personality factor most robustly associated with creativity is Openness/Intellect ().  This factor involves the capacity and predilection to ìseek, detect, comprehend and utilizes ideas and experiential data (). As the name implies Openness/Intellect is composed of two distinct subfacets (). Openness to experience, involves a proclivity for intuitively engaging with sensory, aesthetic and affect means, and Intellect, entails an inclination and ability for intentionally engaging with IDEAS and analytical processing (). Current research exploring in person predictors of creativity, largely sampling from pre-adulting populations and pooling the arts as a single category, claim:

COMMON CORRELATIVE CLAIM: Openness but NOT Intellect is a predictor of creative achievement in the ARTS ()

() Based on a presentation. Citations need to be added.


Visual artists tend to regularly engage with ideas via rational thinking styles in addition to their making practice.

In the field of visual arts these findings do not ring true. We see eminent artistsó benders of conventions, whose names are archived into our art historical and contemporary textbooksóengaging and cogitating rationally with ideas. This is evident in their writing practices. Art scholars Linda Goddard, Kristine Stiles, Helena Preesler, and Jennifer Leise, note that these artists have a PROPENSITY to WRITE that it is easier to count those who do not write than those who do. Not only do they write but they do so PROLIFICALLY as exampled by letters remaining in art archives such as 13,000 by James Whistler, 3,000 plus of Monetís, and a slew by Van Gogh. This trend has remained persistent from Leonardo to Gauguin, Dali to Warhol, OíKeefee to Ai Wei Wei and Sally Mann. Yet writing as artist-thinker remains a liability, PROBLEMATIC, for visual artists in terms of their practice and identity. Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau in 1886 wrote ìI am by no means a writerî and exclaimed that for artists to analyze for their own benefit is acceptableÖ but ìto give public explanation, definition, as though it were a mathematical problem, is monstrousî Matisse wrote, ìA painter who addresses the publicÖto reveal his ideasÖexposes himself to several dangersÖhe risks reproach for encroachingî (on other) domains. In 1965, artist Mel Bochner stated that the writing artist is ìlooked at suspiciously, as if writing (and thinking) somehow taints their visual practiceî (Goddard, 2012). PERSNICKETYóIn the face of these risks, Art scholars claim that a commonality across artistsí writings is the careful employment of anti-literary and anti-intellectual tropes and value affirmation of the experiential. As exampled in De Vinciís text, ìI am fully conscious that, not being a literary manÖ They will say that I, having no literary skill, cannot properly express that which I desire to treatÖ but they do not know that my subjects are to be dealt with by experience rather than by words; and (experience) has been the mistress of those who wrote well. And so, as mistress, I will cite her in all casesÖ Though I may not, like them, be able to quote other authors, I shall rely on that which is much greater and more worthy: on experienceÖThey will scorn me as an inventorî (Richter, 1883). In 1975, painter Ad Reinhardt, noted, ìAn artist-as-artist has always nothing to say, and he must say this over and over again.î Despite the many forms of anti-intellectual tropes, CÈzanne claimed that there are two types of painters, those masters engrossed in material masturbation and those who use their brush to think (Goddard, 2012). It is predominantly this latter type of artist, artist-thinker, whose names are archived for their creative contributions to the field.

  • Adamson, N., & Goddard, L. (2012). Introduction – Artistsí Statements: Origins, Intentions, Exegesis. Forum for Modern Language Studies, 48(4), 363-375.
  • Liese, J. (2016). Social medium: Artists writing, 2000-2015. Brooklyn, NY: Paper Monument.
  • Mitchell, W. J. (1989). ìUt Pictura Theoriaî: Abstract Painting and the Repression of Language. Critical Inquiry, 15(2), 348-371.
  • Mitchell, W. J. (2009). Iconology: Image, text, ideology. Univ. of Chicago Press.
  • Pressler, H. (Ed.). (2013). Not a day without a line: Understanding artistsí writings. Academia Press.
  • Stiles, K. (2013). ìIím Readyî Thinking about artistsí writings in a global context today. In H. D. Preester (Ed.), Not a day without a line: Understanding artistsí writings (pp. 175-201). Gent: Academia Press.

Openness + Intellect are associated with high creative achievement in the VISUAL ARTS. Pragmatically, it is our conjecture that eminent creative visual artists will display facet level tendency for Intellect–analytical thinking styles, cognitive processes and attentional focus–in a manner no different than eminent scientists as measured with LIWC variables associated with Intellect.


+ Intellect differentially is associated with levels of creative achievement in the VISUAL ARTS. Or, as measured by LIWC variables associated with Intellect–analytical thinking styles, cognitive processes and attentional focus–will show meaningful differences between Big-C and pro-c visual artists.


Using automated text analysis (LIWC2015) of naturally occurring writing samples (N=2,101) by artists and scientists, we examined language categories associated with the subfacet of Openness INTELLECT—analytical thinking, cognitive complexity, social engagement, affect expression and perceptual attunement.




yellow analytic
  • model=lmer(analytic~domain+(1|name),data=em.sci.art)
  • MODEL INFO: Observations: 615
  • Dependent Variable: analytic
  • Type: Mixed effects linear regression
    • sample estimates: mean in group
    • (intercept)eminent artists M = 82.21386
    • scientists M = 82.77593
    • est (scientists) = 1.38
    • se = 2.27
    • t = 0.61
    • Kenward-Roger df = 206.73
    • p-value = 0.54
    • 95 percent CI =-3.924941-2.800794
    • RANDOM EFFECTS: Group Parameter Std. Dev. name (Intercept) 10.43; Residual 12.89
    • Grouping variables: Groups by name 246; ICC 0.40
splot analytic drivers


Abstract to concrete verbs (Seih et al, 2016): The most abstract involve mental and emotional state verbs (eg abhor, achieve, became, betray). Slightly less abstract are verbs that interpret an action (eg befriend, control, convey, curbed). The most concrete verbs describe an observable action (converse, cooking, cry).

ABSTRACT: mental/emotional state verbs
mental state

interpretive action verb
interpret action verb

CONCRETE: descriptive action verb
describes observable action

Seih, Y., Beier, S., & Pennebaker, J. W. (2016). Development and Examination of the Linguistic Category Model in a Computerized Text Analysis MethodJournal of Language and Social Psychology, 36(3), 343-355. doi:10.1177/0261927×16657855

LIWC Variables

yellow cause
yellow causal splot



yellow insight splot
yellow insight


COG PROCESSES, POOLED (insight, cause, discrepancy, tentative, certainty, differ)

yellow cogproc



yellow perceptual splot
yellow percep



yellow social
yellow social splot



yellow affect
yellow AFFECT splot


Linear Mixed Regression (R packages: lme4; sjPlot)

Predictors Est. SE CI df t p
Intercept (em.Artists) 82.12 0.92 80.61 – 83.64 327 89.39 <0.001
pro-c Artists 6.98 1.62 4.30 – 9.65 212 4.3 <0.001
em.Scientists 1.46 2.01 -1.86 – 4.77 417 0.72 0.47
Random Effects
Observations 2051
Marginal R2/ Conditional R2 0.044 / 0.497
Predictors Est. SE CI df t p
Intercept (Artists) 2.02 0.05 1.95 – 2.10 345 44.92 <0.001
pro-c Artists -0.56 0.07 -0.68 – -0.44 172 -7.79 <0.001
Scientists 0 0.1 -0.17 – 0.17 565 -0.02 0.982
Observations 2051
Marginal R2/ Conditional R2 0.095 / 0.307
Predictors Est. SE CI df t p
Intercept (Artists) 3.06 0.07 2.94 – 3.19 330 41.07 <0.001
pro-c Artists -1.03 0.13 -1.24 – -0.82 201 -8 <0.001
Scientists 0.08 0.17 -0.19 – 0.35 443 0.49 0.624
Observations 2051
Marginal R2/ Conditional R2 0.137 / 0.492
Predictors Est. SE CI df t p
Intercept (Artists) 3.9 0.09 3.75 – 4.05 341 43.47 <0.001
pro-c Artists -0.15 0.15 -0.39 – 0.09 177 -1.02 0.31
Scientists 0.28 0.21 -0.06 – 0.62 534 1.36 0.176
Observations 2051
Marginal R2/ Conditional R2 0.004 / 0.269
Predictors Est. SE CI df t p
Intercept (Artists) 6.6 0.17 6.32 – 6.88 335 39.15 <0.001
pro-c Artists -0.55 0.28 -1.02 – -0.09 186 -1.97 0.051
Scientists -0.02 0.38 -0.65 – 0.60 491 -0.05 0.957
Observations 2051
Marginal R2/ Conditional R2 0.008 / 0.329
Predictors Est. SE CI df t p
Intercept (Artists) 2.74 0.08 2.61 – 2.87 372 34.39 <0.001
pro-c Artists 0.74 0.12 0.54 – 0.94 155 6.21 <0.001
Scientists -0.97 0.19 -1.28 – -0.65 733 -5.06 <0.001
Observations 2051
Marginal R2/ Conditional R2 0.078 / 0.199


creatives EM.art EM.sci PRO.art
Variable Mean Mean Mean
analytic 82.21 82.78 88.61
article 9.10 8.82 8.64
prep 15.27 15.59 14.37
cogproc 12.14 12.74 8.82
insight 2.98 3.14 1.94
cause 2.02 2.00 1.43
discrep 1.22 1.36 0.82
tentat 2.66 3.06 2.30
certain 1.68 1.64 1.07
differ 3.25 3.21 2.42
compare 2.50 2.65 2.44
socil 6.66 6.58 6.16
affiliation 1.65 2.09 1.33
ppron 5.28 5.60 4.44
i 2.14 2.21 1.55
we 0.81 1.37 0.46
you 0.52 0.74 0.59
ipron 5.53 5.20 4.23
family 0.14 0.13 0.16
friend 0.12 0.16 0.16
home 0.26 0.14 0.53
affect 3.93 4.25 4.06
posemo 2.45 2.69 2.63
negemo 1.39 1.45 1.35
anx 0.29 0.26 0.23
tone 45.52 49.20 49.59
dic 81.65 81.63 75.24
sixltr 24.57 23.72 23.77
wps 23.31 23.41 20.35


Though artists, like scientists, use emotion words at very low rates as measured by LIWC, artists still display a high level of emotional expressiveness but presented in an analytical fashion versus emotive. As exampled in a letter from the painter, Barnett Newman, to art critic, Clement Greenberg.

Affectless-like Affect

Letter by Barnett Newman

  • Newman, Affect Score 2.35

    articles, prep, pronouns, auxverbs, adverbs, conjunctions, negations

    • Artists M = 3.93
    • Scientists, M = 4.25
    • LIWC norm, M = 5.57

Dear Clem:

I have now reread your article and I find that the errors of fact that you made in discussing me are even more serious than when I first saw them. I feel they must be corrected.

First: “. . . so Still’s painting is infused with that stale prosaic kind of painting to which Barnett Newman has given the name of ‘buckeye.’

No reading or rereading of this phrase can avoid the implication that I invented the term “buckeye” and that I applied it to Still. You do not specifically say that I did these things, but you do not say clearly enough that I did not.

Let me recall the event. It occurred not at the many saloons you mentioned. It was at the White Horse Tavern. In what seemed to me to be an innocent social conversation, you asked me why the pictures in the tavern were failures. I said they were “buckeyes.” You then wanted my technical definition of the term and I obliged. You know that I did not invent the term—that I did not “give” it. I only used it, as I am certain (since the word goes back for several centuries) other painters from Hogarth to Eakins have used it.

You know that at no time in my discussion did I mention Still’s work or any other artist’s work, and that you in no way indicated to me that you were involved in an operation of your mind that went beyond the pictures on the wall. What was your purpose in using my name? To have used it was unnecessary since you could have made your point without it. Your use of my name was, therefore, entirely unwarranted. This is particularly so since it was as clear to me then as it is clear to me now that although “buckeye” may be nonvalue painting, it does not make all nonvalue painting “buckeye.” Huckleberries are berries but not all the berries are huckleberries.

Second: “. . . like Newman, he [Rothko] soaks his pigment into the canvas, getting a dyer’s effect. . . .” To a reader, the words “soaked,” “dyed” imply that the surface is as if stained by dyelike color. This may be a description of Rothko’s surface, but it is in error and entirely misleading as a description of my work. You know that my paint quality is heavy, solid, direct, the opposite of a stain. If you wanted to describe the sense of the single, total image my pictures make, you should have made the distinction between something that is “dyed” and something that is whole as if cut or stamped by “dies.” I think that this play on your vocabulary gives a clearer picture of my paint quality than the erroneous link you made.

Third: “… an indirect sign of his [Still’s] importance is the fact that he [Still] is almost the only abstract expressionist to ‘make’ a school; by this I mean that a few of the many artists he has stimulated or influenced have not been condemned by that to imitate him but have been able to establish strong and independent styles of their own. Barnett Newman is one of them. . .

Here you have made the most serious error of all. For here you are not examining my work. Here you have assumed the authority arbitrarily to tell its history. And the only interpretation possible from your phrases is that I am derived from Still. The facts are otherwise.

I first created my concept and developed my present style in 1944-45. By 1946 I had already done a series of pictures which culminated in the picture I called Euclidean Abyss.

I first became acquainted with Still and his work during the winter of 1946 at the time of his first show at Peggy’s [Art of This Century gallery]. (In your article you incorrectly place Still’s first show at Peggy’s in 1944. The correct date is 1946.) I had never seen any of his work before then, nor had I ever heard of him until that winter. When I did see Still and his work, my concept  and style had already been formed.

I am very sorry that you have made these errors. It is too bad that you were not as acutely aware of my work during these important years as you are now, because you would have had a more correct picture of my history and my work and you would not now be putting both under a cloud. The least you can do now is to correct these errors.

Sincerely yours, Barnett Newman

Sol LeWitt, 1969

Cog Pro M = 22.84, Causal M = 4.63

cause, insight, discrep, tentative, certainty, differ

  • Artists M = 12.31
  • Scientists, M = 12.74
  • Art-Pros M = 08.82
  • LIWC norm M = 10.61

Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists.

They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach.

Rational judgments repeat rational judgments.

Irrational judgments lead to new experience.

Formal art is essentially rational.

Irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically.

If the artist changes his mind midway through the execution of the piece

he compromises the result and repeats past results.

The artist’s will is secondary to the process he initiates from idea to completion.

His willfulness may only be ego.

When words such as painting and sculpture are used, they connote a whole tradition and imply a consequent acceptance of this tradition, thus placing limitations on the artist who would be reluctant to make art that goes beyond the limitations.

The concept and idea are different. The former implies a general direction while the latter is the component. Ideas implement the concept.

Ideas can be works of art; they are in a chain of development that may eventually find some form.

All ideas need not be made physical.

Ideas do not necessarily proceed in logical order.

They may set one off in unexpected directions, but an idea must necessarily be completed in the mind before the next one is formed.

For each work of art that becomes physical there are many variations that do not.

A work of art may be understood as a conductor from the artist’s mind to the viewer’s.

But it may never reach the viewer, or it may never leave the artist’s mind.

The words of one artist to another may induce an idea chain, if they share the same concept.

Since no form is intrinsically superior to another, the artist may use any form, from an expression of words (written or spoken) to physical reality, equally.

If words are used, and they proceed from ideas about art, then they are art and not literature; numbers are not mathematics.

All ideas are art if they are concerned with art and fall within the conventions of art.

One usually understands the art of the past by applying the convention of the present, thus misunderstanding the art of the past.

The conventions of art are altered by works of art.

Successful art changes our understanding of the conventions by altering our perceptions.

Perception of ideas leads to new ideas.

The artist cannot imagine his art, and cannot perceive it until it is complete.

The artist may misperceive (understand it differently from the artist) a work of art but still be set off in his own chain of thought by that misconstrual.

Perception is subjective.

The artist may not necessarily understand his own art. His perception is neither better nor worse than that of others.

An artist may perceive the art of others better than his own.

The concept of a work of art may involve the matter of the piece or the process in which it is made.

Once the idea of the piece is established in the artist’s mind and the final form is decided, the process is carried out blindly.

There are many side effects that the artist cannot imagine.

These may be used as ideas for new works.

The process is mechanical and should not be tampered with. It should run its course.

There are many elements involved in a work of art. The most important are the most obvious.

If an artist uses the same form in a group of works, and changes the material, one would assume the artist’s concept involved the material.

Banal ideas cannot be rescued by beautiful execution.

It is difficult to bungle a good idea.

When an artist learns his craft too well he makes slick art.

These sentences comment on art, but are not art.


Artists writing on writing

August 9, 1955



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