Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Age-Genius Curve

I recently finished reading Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters: From Dating, Shopping, and Praying to Going to War and Becoming a Billionaire-- Two Evolutionary Psychologists Explain Why We Do What We Do, by Alan S. Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa. It's a short book (though it is longer than the title) explaining why our drive to reproduce is behind everything we do. Apparently, even our desire to create is fueled by the need to procreate; the authors speculate that the need to impress women is behind both creative and criminal behavior. To support this claim, they point to the age-genius curve in men. In many endeavors, men peak in their early twenties and start losing their edge after they marry and have a child. Of course, taking care of a child is very time-consuming, but the authors suggest that once a man has succeeded at reproducing, he doesn't need to compete so intensively anymore.

As a woman, I was disappointed that they didn't discuss achievement in women to the same extent that they do for men. The only thing they did say was that women don't peak the same way men do; their age-genius curve is broader and flatter. I guess that's good news that my best work isn't necessarily behind me. And while there may be some truth to what these authors suggest, I think there are more factors here that they aren't considering. Life experiences, including success, may affect one's creativity. After all, once you've reached the mountain top, where else can you go? Sometimes you just have to find a new mountain so you can have the thrill of challenge all over again. That's one good thing about writing--every new book is a different challenge.

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