E. Paul Torrance, Ph.D.
Alumni Distinguished Professor Emeritus, The University of Georgia

Test Developed:
Torrance Tests of Creativity

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I was born in 1925 on a small farm ten miles from Milledgeville, Georgia. I completed junior college at Georgia Military College. By attending summer sessions, I earned the A.B. degree at Mercer University and the M.A. degree from the University of Minnesota. With the help of the GI Bill and a scholarship, I earned the Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

After completing junior college, I began high school teaching. Among my eighth- and ninth-grade students were two of the most creative boys I have ever taught. With their creativity, they—with the help of their classmates—drove me to distraction and gave me a burning desire to learn how to use such creativity positively. During the following years as a teacher at Georgia Military College, I began to learn how to do this. Many of the boys were so creative that their hometown high schools could not tolerate them. In 1943 I developed my first creativity test after the model of Johnson O’Connor, founder of the Human Engineering Laboratories.

My experiences doing research in support of the USAF Survival School and the study of jet aces of the war over Korea further fueled my desire to develop a creativity test and to use it in developing greater creativity in all people. It was when I became director of the University of Minnesota Educational Research Bureau that I had a real opportunity to develop a creativity test.

At the outset of the work at the University of Minnesota, I was confronted with the problem of defining the construct of creativity. I brought with me a simple definition from my Survival School experiences. I had maintained that surviving an emergency or extreme condition required some degree of creativity. I restated it as follows: Whenever people confront a problem for which they have no learned and practiced solution, some degree of creativity is required. I knew that this definition would never be accepted for research purposes. After reviewing over fifty definitions that were current in 1958, I adopted a process definition. This definition was stated as follows: Creative thinking is the process of sensing difficulties, problems, gaps in information, missing elements, something askew; making guesses and hypotheses about the solution of these deficiencies; evaluating and testing these hypotheses; possibly revising and restating them; and finally communicating the result.

I wanted to develop a test that could be used from kindergarten through graduate and professional school, as well as on adults in all lines of work. I also wanted to develop a test that would include as many different kinds of creative thinking as possible within acceptable time limitations. I knew that there must be time enough to allow for incubation to take place. I also planned to develop tests of the creative personality, motivation and life experiences through which creative abilities are developed.

We conducted many methods of administration and scoring, kinds of reliability and validity, and factor analysis. I retained those test tasks that were factorially as different as possible. Initially, I favored Guilford’s divergent thinking model. We finally settled upon certain kinds of creativity indicators and additional kinds of abilities, such as resistance to closure and ability to abstract.

Very soon we recognized that there were problems in administering a test that required verbal or drawing responses. Some young children would freeze up and be unable to respond or give only a few of the most obvious kinds of responses. This observation made me recognize that they had been talking and drawing for a relatively short time. At the same time, we recognized that they had been moving all their lives and using movement to get what they wanted. From these realizations, Thinking Creatively in Action and Movement (TCAM) was born. Soon we developed scoring procedures and norms, conducted reliability studies, and began developing studies of validity. The test was shown to be free of racial or socioeconomic bias. Users seem to have found it to be a satisfactory test, easy to administer and score.

Since almost every kind of creativity seems to require imagery, we found that we could use sounds and onomatopoeic words as a basis for developing images. Sounds and Images and Onomatopoeia and Words were published under the title the Khatena-Torrance Think Creatively with Sounds and Words. There are alternate forms for children and for adults. Of all the different tests of creativity, Sounds and Images seems to be the most consistently valid across all forms of creative performances.

From the beginning, I planned to develop a biographical or life experience inventory. I had been inspired by the success that we had achieved with Life Experience Inventories with survival instructors and the Korean jet aces, both of which required a great deal of creativity.

My staff and I spent many hours reading biographies of people who had led very creative lives and made important creative contributions. In preliminary studies and one excellent dissertation, the inventory showed high validities. However, I learned that Calvin Taylor and his associates had developed an excellent biographical inventory, and decided to discontinue this development. I have regretted making this decision because Taylor never released the scoring key for his inventory. Our final compromise was a simple reporting of creative achievements known as Something About Myself (SAM). With adults, it has good reliability, but it is not appropriate for children who have limited experience.

Published along with SAM was a test of creative personality named What Kind of Person Are You? For this purpose we had scholars of the creative personality make a Q-sort of the characteristics of creative persons, as revealed by fifty studies, and used these data to develop a forced-choice instrument. It has also shown good reliability and validity.

From the beginning of my research at the University of Minnesota, we started developing a test of creative motivation. We began with a rather complex theory and called our test a test of social-personal motivation. We could never validate some of the scales, and we settled on the component that consistently correlated significantly with criteria of creative performances. We titled it the Creative Motivation Scale. This scale was not appropriate for use with children, so I reworded the items in language that would communicate to children and titled it What Makes Me Run. The Creative Motivation Scale was not published until 1997, when such an instrument was needed by the state of Georgia when motivation was chosen as one of the four criteria in selecting students for gifted and talented programs. It is available from the Torrance Center for Creative Studies at the University of Georgia.


The Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT) was initially published in 1966 by Personnel Press in conjunction with Ginn and Company. Soon after this, Ginn decided to phase out their testing business. The TTCT was then taken over by Scholastic Testing Service; they also published my other creativity tests. They established a test-scoring service and offer test-scoring workshops throughout the United States. The development, editing, and services have been directed by Dr. John Kauffman. My only complaint is that the publisher has insisted that the tests be marketed as materials for the gifted. I would like them to be marketed for the retarded, the emotionally disturbed, and over the whole range of ability.

To be a test developer brings rewards both in meeting a need and providing financial support of further development and the development on new tests. However, it also brings criticism from those who have never used the test and who do not understand the rationale and purposes of the test. It is also painful to see the test being misused by abbreviating the test, using improper methods of administration, and having improper expectations of the test.

To prospective test developers, I would make the following suggestions:

1. Use modern technology. With these technologies you can perform in minutes what required months in 1958.

2. Solicit the cooperation of colleagues in collecting data for norms, reliability, validity, and methods of administration.

3. Work out a plan for maintaining a cumulative bibliography. The cumulative bibliography for the TTCT now contains over 2,000 studies.

4. In the early stages of test development, seek criticisms from colleagues and be open to change.

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