Unemployed people in the Arts
Conference Paper - International Conference of Psychology and the Performing Arts, Institute of Psychiatry, 1990.
Author: Andrew Evans, Director of Arts Psychology Consultants © 1990
The data to be presented here comes from questionnaires completed by unemployed people in the arts in the Greater London area. A very small number came to us as private clients, but the vast majority were those who attended one of our 6-week courses running under the government Employment Training Scheme for adults. We started running these courses in September 1989, so the data has been collected between then and June 1990.
By people in the arts we mean anyone in the categories of visual arts, dance, drama, film and television, literature and music. These 6 categories, together with the category "combined arts", are the ones used by the Arts Council of Great Britain, and all the data has been grouped accordingly. Numbers favour musicians, visual artists and actors in that order. We had only 3 writers, a handful of film and television people, and no dancers except one who after injury now classes himself as a blues singer.
Subjects were offered the tests in the form of a career analysis profile which would stand on its own merits and also help outline possible areas of career interest for further training on the adult ET scheme.
The subjects tested
The majority of these subjects came to us after having been contacted by the DHSS and asked to attend a restart interview for those appearing on the register of unemployed for over 6 months. Although there was some ill feeling about the restart stage, in which for many there was a choice of doing a course or proving they were actively seeking work, there was little or no residual ill feeling against us for running the course, this being checked in feedback sessions. On the contrary, the feedback we have received has been overwhelmingly positive. We are fairly satisfied that there was no duress involved either in attending the course or in doing the questionnaires, both of which were voluntary.
The subjects tested consequently appeared to be in a reasonably relaxed frame of mind when tested. This was during week one, but after the first introductions had been made and the new group had started functioning. They would, however, be subject to all the features of being out of work and this surely results in some increased frustration and anxiety. They also probably suffer from one or other reason why they are not working in the first place, either overt e.g. a recent bereavement in the family, back pain or some degree of alcohol abuse, or covert in the shape of some personality issue. This was definately not the case with all subjects, some of whom were working on and off or rehearsing for band tours or recording sessions, or in the case of actors simply between work. No attempt was made to quantify this question of what personality issues there were other than those revealed by the tests themselves. The subjects were identified by area of the arts and sex. Their common status was considered to be unemployed at time of testing. The age range was late teens to late fiftees, with a mean of somewhere in the thirties.
The subjects were also selected for the course from a pool of applicants. The selection ratio varied, but was mostly about 2 in 3 who turned up for interview. Only about 2 in 3 who contacted us initially turned up at the interview stage, and about 1 or 2 in 24 did not start on day one. Consequently the subjects selected themselves in terms of motivation, and were then selected by us as being intelligent and literate enough to cope with groupwork (albeit with mild dyslexia or poor spelling in cases) and also presenting for interview as pleasant, reasonably sensitive to others and of apparently sound mind. The latter excluded those who were obviously angry, frustrated or overbearing, and also those who presented as drunk or drugged.
A number of trainees were accepted who had a history of addiction or other problems but who had dealt with them to the point of being able to cope satisfactorily with their daily affairs and these completed the course quite reasonably with only a few absences. One trainee with a previous psychiatric problem found the course too stressful and dropped out in the first week, but by and large the interviewing was successful and our courses have run with all 24 places filled since the outset in September.
The coursework consists of groupwork covering aims, goals blocks, self-presentation, assertion, time management and creativity and workshops offering experience of art and music therapy, dance and movement and projects such as making a video. This also means that subjects were attracted to the course by its quasi-psychological nature. This would select in those with some interest in groupwork and/or pop psychology, and select out those resistent to opening up in front of strangers or those who thought such forms of counselling were a pointless waste of time for them.
To sum up, this would identify the subjects as literate, of seemingly average intelligence or above, broadly curious about or actively interested in popular psychology applied to the arts, and able to cope with and survive 6 weeks of groupwork with total strangers. In fact, the majority of subjects coped well, socialised readily, and by their own feedback stated that they enjoyed the 6 weeks and found them useful and constructive. Since our intelligence and creativity scores are above average, we can assume that a number of those finally selected were in fact quite capable and talented. Some had a very good previous work record.
The tests used
The three tests used were the Cattell 16PF, the Myers Briggs Type indicator, and the Holland Self-Directed Search. Added to this was a list of 35 job values based loosely on those in "Build your own Rainbow", a workbook by LifeSkills Associates. The criteria for selecting the tests were:
· To provide as thorough a test of personality as possible in order to pick up any counselling issues.
· To derive occupational scales from both personality tests that would indicate appropriate career choices, and to check those against job areas and values self-selected by the subjects themselves.
· To put together complimentary tests that would work as a battery to give robust career guidance
· To look at a large range of factors including arts-related ones such as creativity, imagination, sensitivity, flexibility and intelligence.
· To use industry standard tests with good user-group support and a large existing databank including arts categories.
The 16PF and Myers-Briggs certainly measure up in terms of extensive databanks, wide professional use and range of factors interesting to the arts. The 16PF includes a test of intelligence, but I do not personally consider this very reliable in terms of Form A alone which was the form used, or very culture-fair. Consequently my results on this may be lower than on culture-fair tests with more questions such as the Ravens. They are not likely to be higher, so this should indicate a rough minimum level of reasoning ability for the subject group.
Both the 16PF and the Myers-Briggs contain creativity scales. The 16PF is an established 2nd. order factor, while the Myers Briggs is an experimental scale based on 20 yrs data on creative people. Curiously the 16PF favours introverts while the Myers-briggs favours extraverts with a thinking preference.
The Holland vocational questionnaire gives the now familiar 6 job categories of Realistic handskills, Investigative technology and science, Artistic work, Social caring and teaching work, Enterprising and sales work, and Conventional office and admin work. These categories are also given as functions of the 16PF, enabling one to double-check for robustness of choice.
Finally the job values list serves to underline some of the factors appearing in the three other questionnaires. E.g. values of independence and time freedom mirror second-order independence in the 16PF; community involvement, communication, friendship and helping society mirror Social work in the Holland, and creativity mirrors creativity scores. These values also give useful ratings of how important money is, what sort of working environment is needed, and what least preferred factors are to be avoided.
My experience of using this combination of tests is very positive - I find the battery extremely useful in general and career counselling, and all parts are relevent to the arts and are supported by good arts databanks.
What I feel a lack of is some sort of ability test that will discriminate between differing forms of talent and creativity, whether verbal, musical, kinetic or artistic. This is another development project I have underway, and I have used my own test of creativity experimentally on this subject group. I have not included the results in this paper, which is confined to the use of data from the widely used published tests described. However, some validation of actual performance on creativity measures is, I think, needed to support the ratings of creativity derived from personality scales. We know that the subject group is actively persuing creative careers, but there is little reliable correlation available in terms of how creatively and with what degree of talent these careers are being pursued.
Myers Briggs Type Indicator
The first personality test, known as the MBTI or Myers Briggs, comes from Jung's theory of types and is consequently based on psychoanalytical principles. It assumes that personalities can be divided into types along the parameters of extroversion, intuition, feelings and perception. Four scales give a total of 16 types, and these 16 types are designated by their 4 letter codes. The strong preferences here are Intuitive, Feeling and Perceiving.
· Artists are the ideas people, with a future focus, whose strength is creativity. They are attracted to projects, and are good at initiating ideas. They may be poor at carrying these through unless they have the self-discipline to finish tasks, and are prone to work in binges or at the last minute.
· As such they are weak at living in the present, observing reality, and following step-by-step routines. Since 2/3 to 3/4 of the population are good at realistic thinking, they are considered absent-minded and impractical by the person in the street. They may equally be resented for their imagination and flow of ideas, and this can cause perpetual friction in their lives. They may think they are not appreciated for their imaginative virtues, and simply criticised for their realistic weaknesses. Since they are furthest removed from the company worker who has a fixed daily routine, they may receive most critricism from that quarter, and may reciprocate by criticising company workers as having boring lives.
· They are strongly 'Perceiving' (spontaneous) as opposed to 'Judging' (planning) and prefer to leave options open for lateral thinking. This favours creativity and is found in the highest creatives (judged by peers), but in doing so they may avoid structuring their lives and so may end up unemployed through lack of organisation, procrastination, and inability to decide what they want to do. Some may have multiple skills and be unable to chose which to pursue, so that they may end up doing nothing.
· They mainly have a feeling focus, except for actors, photographers and film people. This is particularly marked with painters and musicians. This feeling focus puts them into the same personality categories as counsellors and psychologists. On paper they seem to have the same inherent personality skills that make good counsellors. In practise, they may need a lot of training to successfully espouse the skills and values important to unbiased, uncritical and methodical counselling. A number of trainees on our courses wanted to pursue counselling options, but some appeared to be still quite removed from the personality needed to do it effectively. This may be because the arts as a whole are critical, insecure and unsupportive, whilst the opposite ought to be true of counselling.
The Cattell 16PF
First Order Factors
A - Warmth
The group scored 5 on this, while visual artists scored 4. The lower score shows artists as being more cautious with emotional expression, as they were found to be the most introvert on the MBTI and on the 16PF. This may be a function of their being the most isolated during their work, most of which is carried out alone. One or two of the unattached male painters complained bitterly about such loneliness. As a whole the group is slightly on the detached and cool side, maybe through being used to observing life in a critical way. Males scored a 5 and females a cooler 4.
B - Intelligence
This factor on the form A used consists of 13 questions which are mainly word associations and next in the series types, e.g. spade is to dig as knife is to sharp, or AB is to de as SR is to pq. The problems here are that 13 questions is not reliable enough, and the test is not culture fair to those whose first language is not English. Even so, the group mean is 7 for all types, showing our unemployed artists as being comfortably above average, and somewhere around the 115 IQ mark. A number of researchers including Crockenburg in 1972 have proposed a threshold model for creativity, above which it is independent of intelligence and more dependent on personality factors, and the IQ for the threshold has been put at around 120. This might suggest that with this group it is personality and fluency of ideas that will be the more important factor in talent and success than pure intelligence itself.
C - Emotional stability and ego strength
The group mean here is 5, with visual artists at 4 showing greater emotional instability. Low scores are associated with poor coping and neurotic responses to life situations, and this is the factor most associated with neurotic disturbances on other scales like Eysenck's neuroticism and MMPI neuroticism and psychoticism scales. It is also associated with drug and alcohol addictions. Not surprisingly selection panels for a number of jobs try to favour individuals with high C scores. This score of 5 is the same as on the unemployed vocational rehabilitation data from the states. Although it is not specially low it is below average, and this begs the question of whether it is a consequence of unemploment or one of the personality factors that leads to it.
E - Competitiveness, dominance
The whole group and all the arts types individually scored 7 on this, showing a unanimously high degree of competitiveness. Part of this can be taken to be ambitiousness, and this correlates with the Executive Profile Survey. Part of it may be assertiveness and a desire to put ideas into action, in which it is an ingredient of creativity. The US unemployed profile has this factor below average, so the high score here can be taken to reflect the arts population.
F - Impulsivity, enthusiasm
Actors and musicians scored 7 on this, while artists scored a lower 6. This factor correlates with need for variety and a preference for popular music, both of which were typical of our group. It also correlates with leaving home early. Again, the unemployed profile is a lower 5 towards seriousness and prudence.
G - Conformity, superego strength
Musicians and artists scored 4 on this while artists scored a lower 3. The direction is towards expediency, disregarding rules and feeling few obligations. This reflects the flexibility of the P scores in the MBTI and the dislike of authority and rules. It does not necessarily mean the subject is amoral, since free-thinking intellectuals, humanists and university professors also score low on this. Low scores do, however correlate with delinquency and sociopathic behaviour and also with homosexuality. The sociopathy score for our group is elevated at 7.28
H - Boldness, venturesomeness
All arts types scored a slightly above average 6 on this factor, which has been described as the Errol Flynn factor. There is some evidence that this factor also indicates some insulation from outside stress, since low scorers are more threat-sensitive and show an over-sensitive sympathetic system. Other correlations are with enterprise and self-confidence, and also with emotional and artistic interests. High scorers like meeting people and are overtly interested in sexual attractions. They are rated lazy in childhood and thick-skinned in social interaction, but also more successful in therapy and particularly in groups.
I - Sensitivity, tender-mindedness
Musicians and actors scored a very sensitive 8 on this, the most extreme score of the whole primary profile. Artists surprisingly scored a lower 7. High scorers are artistic, like sentimental music, prefer the humanities to the sciences in school, and tend towards counselling and personnel interests. They show tendencies to dependence and insecurity, and can be attention seeking with a proneness to exaggerate physical symptoms. Medically, however, high scores do in fact correlate with heart disease. Males scored 7 on this while females scored 6.
L - Suspiciousness, jealousy, self-opinionation
This factor is also one of the heart-attack ones, and artists and musicians rated 7 on it, with actors a lower 6. High scorers say their parents were strict or demanding, but also had intellectual interests and made a fuss of the children, tending to project frustrations and criticism onto other people and be contemptuous of the average. High scorers can be disruptive in groups and this can destroy group morale. Possibly actors are better on this factor because they are more aware of the need for teamwork and more familiar with carrying it out.
M - Imagination, ideas orientation, absent-mindedness
Musicians and artists scored 6 on this while actors scored a higher 7. In view of the high MBTI scores on intuition it seems surprising that this score is not higher. High scorers are frequently unconventional or bohemian, impractical and unconcerned about everyday matters. This indicates an intense inner life and subjectivity, and is very positively correlated with general creativity and higher levels of creative achievement within arts jobs. Low scorers are practical and careful, and maybe having to manage on a low income reduces this score in the unemployed. The US unemployed profile is a lower 5.
N - Shrewdness
All arts types scored a below average 4 on this with women scoring a lower 3. Low scorers tend to be natural, forthright and artless - nearer to Rousseau than Machiavelli. This reflects a sort of baseline ingenuousness and trust in people, and is found in the clergy and nursing staff. Oddly, arts types also rate high on suspicion, and it may be that this factor is a childlike quality which has not been superceded by cynicism but simply by a desire to check things so as not to get ripped off by others, which is something that people in the arts seem to be unusually prone to.
O - Insecurity, worry, self reproach
High scorers tend to be worried, guilty, moody and experience bouts of depression. They respond badly to criticism from others, and get upset and dejected over self-perceived failures. They are found particularly in artists, editorial workers and the piousness of the clergy. William James' essay on religion refers to "oceanic emotional sensitivity" which is near to the spirit of this factor. It is the opposite of serene self-confidence. all arts types scored a slightly above average 6 on this, as did the US unemployed.
Q1 - Radicalism, experimentation
All arts types scored a solid 7 on this, indicating a preference for innovation and free-thinking. High scorers are creative and somewhat aggressive, and can be critical of authority and other people's ways of doing things. They are excellent problem solvers, but not popular as group leaders.
Q2 - Self-sufficiency
This is the opposite to preference for group interaction, so the arts types were fairly mixed on this. Not surprisingly artists and actors at 6 showed up as more individual, while musicians at 5 showed a group preference. Women scored 5 while men scored 6.
Q3 - Self-discipline
All arts types conform to their popular image on this factor, with actors the most undisciplined at 3 and artists and musicians at 4. Low scorers tend to be untidy and leave things to chance, as seen on the MBTI P scores. It is fortunate for air travellors that pilots are the highest group measured on this factor, relying on order, organisation and willpower. Low scores contribute to anxiety and tend towards a more disintegrated personality with less positive desire for self-enhancement.
Q4 - Tension and stress
All arts types of both sexes scored 6 on this factor, as did the US unemployed. It represents a state of undischarged and frustrated libido resulting in higher excitement and tension. Normally this results in decreased function, but in workaholics with high activity it can indicate normal function at a higher general stress level. High scores are also associated with manic depressives. Analytically it is thought to represent a high id activity which is too strong for adequate discharge by the ego capacity. Such frustration may be internal or made worse by the environment, and this factor can be reduced by encouraging coping strategies or improving C and O scores.
Second Order Factors
After the first order factors in the 16pf come the second order factors which are composites of the primaries.
Artists are about average at 5.5, while actors are 6.0 and musicians the highest at 6.4. Note that this scale does not correspond exactly with the MBTI, since it takes in qualities of competition and spontaneity which are elevated even in artists who are otherwise cool and detached.
The composite anxiety score is high at 6.6 for artists, and a little lower at 6.5 for actors and 6.1 for musicians. The US unemployed score is 6.4, which is also considered high. Another study of British artists, however, gives anxiety scores of 7 for men and 7.6 for women, which is even higher. This compares with, for instance, 2.9 for airline pilots.
This is a very interesting factor. It is meant to represent high cortical alertness, as shown in quick reaction times for upper scores, and depressive moodiness for low scores. The personality qualities associated with high scores are cheerfulness and readiness to handle problems in a dry and objective way. This correlates with thinking on the MBTI. The interesting thing is that women score high at 5.9, while men score low at 3.7. We know that thinking rather than feeling is more typical of men in the general population, and also in our unemployed arts group at 41% to 36%. So the conclusion seems that the norms used must misrepresent women, or that there is some weakness in the calculations used. Or alternatively that women are higher on this factor and the misunderstanding is elsewhere.
On this composite, arts scores are uniformly high at between 7 and 7.3, showing arts people as laws unto themselves. Again, this is supposed to be a male characteristic but women come out as 7.3 and men as 7.2
These kind of scores beg the old question as to whether creative men exhibit feminine characteristics while creative women exhibit masculine ones.
Scores for this are notably low, between 3.1 for actors and 3.8 for musicians with male and female both at 3.6
This is between 5.1 and 5.6, which is similar to the US unemployed score. Women score higher at 5.9 and men lower at 5.1
This, together with independence, is the highest of the factors at 7.4 for women and 7.7 for men. However, it does not match the high mean scores of successfully working arts subjects, such as US writers and visual artists at over 10, and British artists at 8 or 9. It does match in the case of US musicians and composers at 7.5. Not surprisingly, working creative artists and writers have jobs which are more purely creative than the performing artists on normal profiles. This does not appear to be mirrored in our group - possibly because the artists were less creative, and also because the musicians were mainly rock and jazz where there is more creative improvisation than in classical music.
The Holland vocational scales divide the world of work into 6 categories:
R Realistic: hand and trade skills
I Investigative: science and technology
S Social: caring, health and teaching
E Enterprise: sales and managerial
C Conventional: office work and admin.
Results: (91 subjects) A=89 S=79 E=46 I=36 R=32 C=7
Subjects identified their top 3 values. Within these top 3, far and away the main preferences were for Artistic work at 89 and Social at 79. Third comes Enterprising at 46, then Investigative and Realistic jointly at 36 and 32, with Conventional a distinct bottom at 7. This gives the lie to the idea that actresses should become temps - nothing could be more boring in their eyes.
Holland's job scales for the arts list the overwhelming number of arts careers as combinations of ASE, so this correlates well with known data. It also confirms the prevalent MBTI types INFP and ENFP which are typically related to the arts, counselling, psychology and caring.
The third preference for Enterprising work was strange in that 'persuading people' came low on jobvalues. The way the questionnaires were filled in shows that subjects liked the idea of interesting and varied projects and being able to manage people and be important. They did not seem to like the actual jobs by which one got power and influence, and disliked having responsibility for people and even competition.
The most preferred values were Creativity, Artistic work, Communication and Expression and Variety. Next came a cluster including Money, Learning new things and Friendship in the working environment. Following this were Time freedom, Independence, Contact with People, Recognition and a congenial place of work.
These values correlate closely with the high 16PF scores for creativity and independence, while friendship, communication and contact with people reflect feeling values. Money is only 5th, showing some truth in the idea of art for art's sake.
The least liked values were overwhelmingly the 'organisational' ones: a predictable routine and a well-known organisation. Next came some of the enterprising ones: physical challenge, competition, persuading people, a fast pace and working alone or under pressure. Also disliked was having to take responsibility for people. Since some of these values would occur in a successful and busy self-employed artist, this asks the question as to whether these unemployed subjects simply could not muster the self-confidence to survive under pressure.
· Men and women are closely matched in terms of personality except that men appear more thinking, in tune with the general population.
· All unemployed arts types are intelligent, highly independent and creative, though less so than successful artists and writers.
· All arts types are characteristically intuitive, imaginative and oriented to the future and new possibilities rather than present realities.
· All types are low on superego strength, organisation and willpower. They are radical and rebellious and dislike exteriorised aspects of organisation such as a predictable routine, office work, and working for a well-known organisation. On the other hand they have great difficulty in developing interiorised concepts of self organisation appropriate to their work, and are poor at valuing and selling themselves. Instead they tend to avoid decisions, procrastinate and work in binges. In sum they appear rebellious but not yet self-actualised; reacting against external authority concepts but unable to interiorise their own authority over themselves.
· All types exhibit a paradox between competitiveness and venturesomeness on the one hand and critical detachment on the other. They also appear to be naive at heart but outwardly suspicious of others. It is as if there is an inner venturing childlike quality which as a result of anxieties, frustrations and disapproval by others, not to say being ripped off financially, has become mistrusting, aloof and critical. Alternatively they may come from critical, opinionated and intellectual families and be internalising observed behaviour, while as children they were encouraged to be venturesome, creative and pleasing to others and were consequently rewarded and made to feel good for being the centre of attention.
· All types are sensitive and prone to neurotic worry and anxiety. They exhibit some of the signs of heart disease proneness, and also of proneness to hypochondria and accidents. A number were faking bad on the 16PF scales.
· Most types show a feeling preference, in common with 65% of the female population. Types that showed more of a thinking preference were photographers and film makers. This feeling preference equips them on paper to be counsellers and carers, and they are attracted to social occupations involving contact with people. On the other hand, they showed no interest in job values such as helping society, getting involved in the community and being responsible for others, possibly because of the high value given to independence. So if they did turn to counselling they might need a lot of groupwork to increase the capacity for caring and reduce the tendency to be critical and rebellious. The low organisation scores would probably mean that setting boundaries and contracts would have to be learned the hard way. A number of trainees expressed interest in counselling courses as a consequence of our course, and some are now studying this.
TM MBTI and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are Trade Marks of Counsulting Psychologists Press Inc.
16 PF is Copyright (C) 1967 by The Institute of Personality and Ability Testing Inc. All property rights reserved by the Institute for Personality and Ability Testing Inc. PO Box 188, Champaign, Illinois. 61820 USA. Printed and distributed by The NFER-NELSON Publishing Company Ltd., Darville House, 2 Oxford Road East, Windsor, Berkshire, United Kingdom. SL4 1DF
The Self Directed Search is published by PAR (Psychological Assessment Resources Inc.), PO Box 98 / Odessa, Florida 33556
‘The Secrets of Musical Confidence’, Andrew Evans, Pub. HarperCollins (Thorsons), London, 1994. NB! Available from Arts Psychology Consultants at £8 including post and packaging.
Data and text © 1990 Andrew Evans, Arts Psychology Consultants