Orson Welles looking for common themes!

The following issues represent some major themes that permeate the entire course. One of these shall be selected to be the subject of your essay final exam.

  1. In this course we have been assuming that exceptional creativity and leadership define the two main manifestations of genius. To what extent does the term “genius” successfully provide a generic label for these two behavioral phenomena? Are there aspects of creativity and leadership which seem to reside beyond this broad categorization? And can you conjure up other domains of achievement or fame where the term “genius” might be reasonably applied and yet which do not seem to fall into the subcategory of either creativity or leadership? For example, what about those personalities who found major world religions? Or rock stars? Or chefs? (See Genius 101: pp. 11-45, parts of pp. 47-77, 107-134)
  2. Each year the MacArthur Foundation awards handsome fellowships of $625,000 to notable contemporary achievers in virtually any domain of activity. The press refers to these as the “genius awards,” and thus the recipients, besides being richer, become officially certified as geniuses. Let’s say that you graduate at the end of this year and start looking for a job, only to discover in the “want ads” that the MacArthur Foundation is seeking someone to help select the next round of geniuses. Having done well in Psychology 175, you decide you are a shoo-in for the job, but you realize that your application must include a well-formulated “position paper” in which you specify the criteria that you should use to decide whether someone is deserving of the award. What things would you look for? Any developmental experiences or personality traits? Any objective behaviors or social relationships? (See Genius 101: pp. 47-77; parts of pp. 79-105, 107-134, 161-195)
  3. It is a national crisis: The President of the United States, in her State of the Union Address, has claimed that America has fallen behind the rest of the world in its per capita output of geniuses. This decline is evident in the poor showing of Americans among recent recipients of the Nobel Prizes as well as the dearth of first-rate leaders in industry and politics (herself excluded). The Congress in its infinite wisdom has therefore voted to use the entire budget normally granted the Department of Defense to launch a massive campaign to boost the U.S. percentage of world genius by the year 2050 A.D. Given that you did so well in Psychology 175 a decade ago, you are recruited by the President herself to assume command as the “genius czar.” Because money is no object, you initiate a massive program to make America rival the Golden Age of Greece. In particular, you…. (See Genius 101: pp. 79-105, 135-160; parts of pp. 47-77, 107-134, 161-195)
  4. During the course of this class, we have examined genius, creativity, and leadership from a great diversity of methodological techniques and theoretical perspectives.  Which of these approaches seem to be the most enlightening, which the least, and why?  To what extent are some methodologies tied to certain theories whereas other methods seem relatively theory free?  Which methods and theories are most suitable for studying just creativity?  Which work best for investigating leadership?  How possible is it for a psychology of genius to emerge that imposes one method and theory on all pertinent phenomena?  Are there aspects of genius that are overlooked by all current methodological and theoretical frameworks? (See Genius 101: pp. 1-10, parts of pp. 14-22, 37-38, 50-56, 65-66, 95-102, 110-121, 163-167, 178-186)

Therefore, I strongly recommend that you periodically review the lectures and your textbook readings in terms of these four broad integrative questions. In the topic outlines located here I indicate the lectures corresponding to each of the four themes. Above I have indicated the main pages in the textbook corresponding to each theme. However, please note that many pages in the text are applicable to more than one theme.


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