The myth that most great scientists are at their most creative when young is missing a larger perspective on the story. A new OSU study looks at the work of winners of Nobel Prizes in economics and finds, in their lives, two cycles of creativity. One particular type hitting earlier and the other often later.
The research found that for economics Nobel laureates the peaks tended to hit in their middle twenties and their middle fifties. This study is supported by previous evidence that found similar patterns in the arts and sciences.
Young economic laureates tended to be conceptual innovators. This kind of innovation usually challenges the conventional knowledge of the field and typically supports sudden blooms of new ideas. These innovators often peak earlier in their careers as they later become mired in accepted theory.
The other kind of creativity and these experimental innovators work a little differently—they accumulate knowledge through their careers and find new ways to analyze, synthesize, and interpret information into new ways of understanding. This kind of analysis requires time, thus the innovations occur later in the laureate’s career.