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Spotlight On Young Researchers: Henderika de Vries



Are creative people better at regulating emotions, and are there cultural differences? This is one of the questions Henderika (Herie) de Vries wants to answer. Having already discovered that cultural differences impact the creative potential of children, the Dutch-Luxembourgish national hopes to understand more aspects of how our cultural circumstances can influence our capacity for creative thinking.

Herie de Vries looks at cultural differences of creativity, with her current focus being on how emotions and cultural differences relate to creativity.

Emotions play a crucial role in the creative process. Are creative people better at regulating emotions, and are there cultural differences? Emotions are also related to wellbeing. How is the regulation of emotions and the wellbeing of high school students related? Can we learn more by investigating different cultural contexts? These are questions I am interested in,” explains Herie de Vries, who completed her PhD at the Université Paris Descartes in 2018 under the supervision of Prof Todd Lubart.

During her PhD, funded by an AFR grant from the FNR, Herie investigated the cultural differences of scientific creative potential of primary school students aged 9 to 11, stemming from Luxembourg, France, Russia, India and Thailand – and found that even at this young age, differences between cultural contexts were evident:

“This is surprising, as creativity usually is thought to be related to freedom of thought. However, cultural rules and values might already or specifically, channel our thinking at this young age. I also discovered by chance that students with immigrant backgrounds, and students whose parents were not born in the country where children go to school, have a diminished potential for creativity.

“Usually, research shows that multicultural experience enhances creative thinking so this was surprising. However, most studies are carried out with adult populations. Especially in a country like Luxembourg, where more than half of students have an immigrant background, it is relevant to do more research to confirm and understand these findings better.”

Teaching at Sorbonne, visiting scholar at Yale

Herie also lectures in educational psychology and looks back with joy at the opportunities she has already had to travel for her research and lecturing, visiting three different continents and exchanging with fellow researchers in her field. She looks back at her PhD as a personal journey, as much as it was a journey to have the subject of the project unfolding.

“I am very grateful because through the FNR, and the encouragement of my PhD supervisor, Prof. Todd Lubart, I had the opportunity to gather many experiences and travel to very interesting places. I could teach at the Sorbonne university, be a visiting scholar at the University of Yale, U.S., travel to conferences in Yokohama, Japan, Denver, U.S. or for example Vienna in Europe. To meet other interesting researchers, who are interested in the same topics as you is also exciting.”

Herie’s next international adventure awaits: In September 2019, she will return to the University of Yale a Postdoc research stay, thanks to a grant from the Fulbright Foundation, co-funded by the FNR.

“My research will focus on cultural differences of creativity in relation with emotions and wellbeing. I am looking forward to continue to contribute to the development of understanding in this domain, and to follow my passion.”

“Understanding more of these differences, could help people from different cultures to understand and have compassion for each other, and to postpone or leave judgment of other people behind”

Herie always wanted to carry out research – she has always been passionate about understanding cultural differences, how these influence our thinking, or cognition. Having attended an international school, it is fair to say she grew up surrounded by a rainbow of cultures each day.

“My other interest, creativity, was a hobby, and thanks to a professor at the early stage when I prepared my own research project, gave me the idea to scientifically study cultural differences of creative thinking. Understanding more of these differences, could help people from different cultures to understand and have compassion for each other, and to postpone or leave judgment of other people behind.”

Herie at the The American Psychological Association (APA) conference 2018 in San Francisco , with a poster she received a prize for
Herie during a visit to Thailand, where she visited primary schools to gather data on scientific creativity

About Spotlight on Young Researchers

Spotlight on Young Researchers is an FNR initiative to highlight early career researchers across the world who have a connection to Luxembourg. The campaign is now in its 4th year, with 45+ researchers already featured. Discover more young researcher stories below.


Herie de Vries during her teaching experience at the renowned Sorbonne university in Paris