Neurotic Individuals are not Creative Thinkers

Pickering, Alan; Smillie, Luke D. and DeYoung, Colin G.. 2016. Neurotic Individuals are not Creative Thinkers. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 20(1), pp. 1-2. ISSN 1364 6613 [Article]

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In the September 2015 issue of Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Perkins et al.[1] proposed that the personality trait of neuroticism stems from individual differences in neural processes that govern the nature of self-generated thought (SGT). They also asserted that higher levels of neuroticism are associated with higher levels of creativity, especially intellectual creativity and creative problem solving, and that this association can be explained in terms of SGT. In this letter, we highlight some serious problems with Perkins et al.’s proposal.

The first problem concerns the link they assert between neuroticism and creativity. This claim triggered extensive media attention, presumably because it reinforces the popular myth of the neurotic creative genius. However, it is contradicted by a rich empirical literature that was ignored by Perkins et al. Extensive evidence (see Table 1; for examples [2–6]) shows that there is no connection between high neuroticism and intellectual creativity, creative problem solving, high intelligence, or genius. By contrast, the (unrelated) personality trait of openness/intellect has been reliably linked with various measures of creativity (e.g., [4]). The only empirically supported link between creativity and neuroticism is a weak association between artistic creativity and risk for mood or psychotic disorders (e.g., [7]). Importantly, this is specific to artistic rather than intellectual creativity and appears to apply only to mental disorders and not to the general personality trait of neuroticism [4]. Therefore, a cornerstone of Perkins et al.’s proposal appears simply to be wrong.

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1 January 2016Accepted
1 January 2016Published

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24 May 2018 12:18

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24 May 2018 12:24

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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