This column originally appeared in The Observer Magazine/Guardian Online

Below are two Haikus. Your job is simply to say which you prefer.


Poem 1, by Aira Cady

Each is made of dust

The brown Allegheny roars

Wide, flat, dusty road


Poem 2, by Jane Clarke

Ghosts of factories

A woman in the branches



Photo via Flickr user Fredrik Rubensson

If you preferred the second poem, then you may be susceptible to two common psychological traits: difficulty in separating the art and the artist, and in setting aside our preconceptions regarding the types of people that are generally regarded as creative. Specifically, for most types of art, including poetry, the stereotype runs that people with rare names (like Aira Cady) are more creative than people with common names (like poor old plain Jane Clarke). Actually, these two poems were exactly equally “creative”, having been written by a random haiku generator*. In fact, when exactly the same poem was attributed to a female author with a rare name (for half of the raters) and a common name (for the other half) it received an average creativity rating of 5.9/7 for the former and 4.6/7 for the latter. So if you’re struggling to be taken seriously as a creative artist, you could always try changing your name.

*Though, actually, having read through these poems countless times, I actually quite like them. The first seems as though it might be about how everything in the universe (from the natural river to the man-made road) is made from the same atoms and molecules (‘each is made of dust’), while the second might be about the decline of clothing factories that used to provide employment for many women, particularly in the North of England.

Lebuda, I., & Karwowski, M. (2013). Tell Me Your Name and I’ll Tell You How Creative Your Work Is: Author’s Name and Gender as Factors Influencing Assessment of Products’ Creativity in Four Different Domains. Creativity Research Journal25(1), 137-142.

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