Motivation and emotion/Book/2014/Creativity and emotion
How does emotion influence our creativity?
Creativity is a common topic of conversation. Is everyone creative? Am I more creative than others? Can I increase my creativity? How do we define creativity?. Is creativity influenced by emotions or are emotions a by-product of thinking creatively? These questions will be answered in relation to psychological theories and analysed in relation to research findings. Ways to induce emotions to best spark creativity will also be discussed along with conflicting evidence on what emotions are best for creativity.
Consider this scenario: It has been a typical day at the office. You have been juggling paperwork and meetings all day and are now under immense pressure from your boss to create a new advertising campaign for one of the company’s biggest clients. The problem is that you’re not feeling very creative. How could you best induce creativity in such a short time? Is this even possible? Will changing emotions help for this type of task and how can this be done?
What is emotion?
The scientific study of Emotions originated around 1884 when William James questioned what the definition of emotions was (Oately, 2004). They are continually studied due to their importance on our lives and impact they have on us, although many are fleeting, others have a significant influence on our lives (Oately, 2004). Emotions are devised by constructs integrating biological, psychological and social factors. They may be singular or a combination of two or more (Lubart & Getz, 1997). They explain how we react and decipher events or information that is of individual importance to us (Averill, 1999).
Emotions are often associated with mood and affect. Affect is generally defined as being constant, but also incorporates the specific nature of emotions, whereas moods are non-specific and longer-lasting (Baas, De Dreu & Nijstad, 2008). As these three concepts are highly related, many studies have only focused on one particular aspect, mainly affect, as emotions are relatively hard to induce in laboratory experiments due to them being highly specific.
Positive and negative emotions will be focused on as they have been determined as the most important independent states, although some researchers have suggested there may be up to four different states (Davis, 2009). Positive emotions refer to those that increase overall feelings of happiness and are generally seen as pleasant such as joy, negative emotions refer to those that reduce overall levels of happiness and are generally considered unpleasant such as sadness (Davis, 2009).
What is creativity?
Definitions of Creativity vary but generally encompass features that include the development of new ideas that either solve problems or generate different thoughts and information (Amabile, Barsade, Mueller & Shaw, 2005) and have value in social settings (Lubart & Getz, 1997). Although much research and conversations surround creativity now , it was not always widely accepted until the 1950s when Guilford stated that more research should be conducted on this topic (Simonton, 2000). Original research focused on creativity and cognitions, characteristics possessed by creative individuals, development of creativity and how social situations can either foster or hinder creativity (Simonton, 2000). Although original research did not account for the influence of emotions on creativity, this did change with the development of theories and research linking ‘mad-geniuses’ to creative industries such as Edvard Munch, and Vincent Van Gogh, to art; however this is not to say that an individual has to have an excess amount of emotion to be creative (Simonton, 2000).
The link between creativity and emotion was mentioned by Collingwood in 1938 and was central to the romantic theory of art, where it was stated that art is due to our emotions and how an individual expresses them (Oately, 2004).
Averill (1999) argued that emotion and creativity are more intricately related than previously believed. Creativity, like emotion is one that requires a more developed level ofprocessing, and therefore may even share some similar underlying mechanisms (Averill, 1999). The link between these two will be discussed further in relation to research and previous findings, to determine whether in fact there seems to be a relationship.
Emotion and creativity
Positive emotions and creativity
Creativity has been found to be a key factor in the success of organisations (Fong, 2006). Therefore, it is worthwhile to determine whether emotions do genuinely have an effect on creativity and if that is the case can this be introduced in workplace settings in order to better foster an environment conducive with creative thinking.
Positive emotions which incorporate positive affect have been thought to indirectly increase creativity by having a direct influence on cognitions (Amabile et al., 2005). Positive emotions can increase the amount of information that will be processed and associated, lead to better attention to relevant details of the situation and lastly influence cognitive flexibility (Amabile et al., 2005).
The broaden and build model of positive emotions was proposed by Fredrickson in 1998. This theory states that when an individual experiences positive emotions such as happiness and lust it allows a temporary expansion of cognitive processes, allowing them to build and expand their current thoughts and actions by utilising a range of resources (Fredickson, 2001). This expansion fosters creative thinking, due to an increased combination of separate components that allows out-of-the -ox thinking and viewing previous problems in a new light (Amabile et al., 2005).This expansion may not be possible with other emotions, and although positive emotions are all inherently different, are still considered to be in the same category which therefore leads to the same outcomes (Fredrickson, 2001). This allows many different ways of sparking creativity to occur, it does not have to be one specific emotion, but can be a range of them, which help access creativity.
Many studies have resulted in support of thistheory. Isen, Daubman & Nowicki (1987) studied university students and induced positive or negative affect by giving treats or watching a film, before they completed a problem-solving task such as Duncker's candle task . It was concluded that positive affect was able to induce more creative thinking than other conditions in this experiment. However, limitations of this study were that participants were university students who may be used to thinking outside the box or engaging with problems in a different way due to previous experiences. Also, is experimentally induced creativity indicative of how creativity is found and used within real life or is it too simple/basic to translate to creativity in real problems, one may encounter in the workplace or everyday life?
Positive emotions appear to be recommended to induce creativity according to the broaden and build theory. As studies by Amabile et al. (2005) found, positive emotions influenced creativity at work. Affect was determined by a short self-report survey which individuals were instructed to complete every day. It included different emotions and how they felt about the workplace in general, which were ranked on a 7-point Likert scale from positive to negative (Amabile et al., 2005). Creativity was measured through self-reporting about when creativity struck them throughout the day in thought and conversation and also from colleagues on a monthly basis (Amabile et al., 2005). Their results found that positive emotions do indeed seem to be a precursor to creativity within the workplace and there seemed to be no influence of negative emotion on creativity. However, these measures may not have accurately captured all constructs of emotion and creativity and more conclusive measures may need to be focused on in future research. This study also did not include any measures to change emotions, therefore how individuals were already feeling may have helped them be creative. For future, measures to change how people are feeling may be more beneficial to determine how creativity can be induced within workplace settings. Therefore, to make the workplace more conducive to creativity, perhaps incentives need to be offered or an atmosphere created that fosters positive emotions. For example by playing music that promotes happy thoughts, however this would be different for each workplace and many trial and errors may have to occur before the benefits would start to occur .
Negative emotions and creativity
Although research and theories have shown a link between positive emotions and creativity, other researchers believe that negative emotions may also foster creative thinking. The majority of research has surrounded the influence that positive emotions have on creativity, however, unlike positive emotions, negative emotions are proposed to be less transient and of a longer duration than positive emotions (Davis, 2009). Therefore, it may be of more importance to determine how effects of negative emotions influence creativity, or how to reduce them, if they are not as conducive to creativity as positive emotions.
A theory proposed to explain the effect of negative emotions on creativity was the mood as input theory which is an extension of the feelings as information theory (Davis, 2009). This model proposed that individuals can obtain information about tasks and situations from their moods (George & Zhou, 2002). Positive emotions are a characteristic that the task is being completed and that there are no problems, this signals the individual to reduce their effort, whereas negative emotions are indicative that more effort needs to be put in, or that an individual may be struggling with the task at hand (Davis, 2009). This relates to creativity as it is thought that is an individual is experiencing a bad mood, or negative emotions as a result of a task, it can signal that their goals are not being achieved and therefore need to change their thinking or develop alternatives, thus enhancing creativity (George & Zhou, 2002) . However, it has been shown that negative emotions may only increase creativity in particular situations (George & Zhou, 2002) .
Kaufman & Vosberg (1997) studied both positive and negative mood effects on problem-solving tasks and how they facilitate creativity. Studiesused high-school students where previous ‘mood-at-arrival’ questionnaires were used to decipher between different moods and note overall level of arousal. After moods were determined, participants were asked to complete two types of problem-solving tasks: a criterion task and contrast task before determining effects of mood on creative problem-solving. Kaufmann & Vosberg (1997) concluded that negative moods may be necessary to facilitate creativity, by means of fostering different ways of thinking and determining options to problems or situations.
Biographical, empirical and experimental studies have found that those who seem to be more creative have higher levels of mood disorders (Akinola & Mendes, 2008). Furthermore, negative emotional states may effectively increase creativity through processes that occur as a result of these emotional states. To determine how depressive states enhance creative thinking, VerHaeghen, Joorman & Khan (2005) studied university students and linked depression to self-rumination. Self-rumination was thought to increase creativity by projecting thoughts inwards and thinking about them, more than a non-depressed individual would; it allows new ideas and thoughts to emerge as a result (Verhaeghen et al., 2005). This study, like others, includes university students and may not account for all factors that influence creativity in real-world situations and more research should be conducted in naturalistic environments. This result may have further implications extending beyond that of depressed individuals, but instead however could allow others to increase creativity by integrating a self-rumination or internalisation of ideas into their lives where creativity is required. This may be particular helpful in organisations however may not always be possible due to deadlines or other work pressures.
Other ways of being creativityhave been linked to negative moods as proposed by the mood as input model. Akinola and Mendes (2008) studied the influence of negative emotions on creativity by focusing on young adults and including a biological aspect of emotions on creativity. Participants baseline creativity was first measured, then participants were instructed to prepare an 8 minute speech, different conditions included talking in front of assessors or by themselves, the assessors then had to act positive or negative toward the speech giver (Akinola & Mendes, 2008) . Emotions were then reported through self-report measures on a 7-point Likert scale before a creativity task was conducted, which included creating a collage, whereby they were judged by artists. The results showed that negative feedback enhanced negative emotions and led to more creative responses. This could be related to greater effort to overcome previous negative feedback, which did not occur with positive emotions as it was believed that more effort was not required to receive good feedback therefore more creative responses were not necessary (Akinola & Mendes, 2008). However, as creativity tasks were judged by artists did they have preconceived ideas about what creativity is based on their field, and therefore may not have been objective enough.
Although other research has shown that negative emotions may be beneficial for creativity, to introduce this in workplaces may be controversial. Generally a workplace environment should be positive and free of negativity; therefore it may be more difficult to implement this in a workplace. There may also be ethical issues with putting someone in a bad mood. There may be one way in which this could be implemented and that is to have a self-report emotion scale as employees start work for the day and then depending on their mood, give them tasks that are best suited to their mood.
Are all emotions important?
A meta-analysis by Davis (2009) included studies where emotions were changed rather than determined and the effect that then had on a creativity task. The final sample included 62 experimental studies and 10 non-experimental studies. The results found that there is more than just mood or emotion that will predict whether creativity is enhanced or not. Davis (2009) found that there were three factors that impact on this relationship – these are the source of emotion, the level of emotion felt and what the requirements of the task measuring creativity included. Creativity may be increased by positive emotions, but this may only occur when tasks are quite short and do not take up little time. Negative emotions, on the other hand, were found to increase creativity when tasks require more effort and time be placed into them (Davis, 2009). These results show that all emotions may be beneficial for creativity and depending on the task may need to changed or induced in different ways. These results are more conclusive than other studies due to the analysis and drawing conclusions from many studies rather than just one, however, many of these studies only included small sample sizes which may have impacted upon the results (Davis, 2009). These studies generally do not take into account specific emotions but rather a general affective or mood state being either positive or negative, future studies may need to focus more on specific emotions in order to gain a more comprehensive picture (Davis, 2009).
Many famous musicians, poets and artists have been diagnosed with mood disorders. One of the most notable artists whom suffered from fluctuations in mood is Vincent Van Gogh (Blumer, 2002). Van Gogh suffered bipolar disorder and later experienced episodes of psychosis. Although he was already painting before the onset of these mood fluctuations (Blumer, 2002) . Written accounts from Van Gogh describe how it was due to these increased emotions that he was able to create masterpieces, and was reported as saying that he worked so hard as it distracted him from dwelling on his emotions too much (Blumer, 2002). It was during these depressive and manic episodes that he produced some of his most famous work for example ‘a starry night’ (Blumer, 2002) . However, as with most case studies, is there another confounding factor that has not been considered that contributed to his creativity such as his love of alcohol, or the fact that he moved many times throughout his life and therefore may have been struck with inspiration, not related to his mood? Other researchers have also considered differential diagnoses of schizophrenia, epilepsy and even Meniere’s disease, therefore can we really determine whether there is a true link between emotions and creativity or are other factors to blame?
Some researchers believe that studying one single emotional state is too simple as emotions are rarely experienced as one specific type, but rather as an integration of different emotions (Fong, 2006). As emotional ambivalenceseems to occur quite readily in everyday life, when determining the impact of emotions of workplace creativity, it may be more beneficial to study it, in regards to emotional ambivalence (Fong, 2006) .
A theory that supports the effects of emotional ambivalence on creativity is the mood congruency theory. The mood congruency theory posits that memory can be enhanced through different moods and emotions, by being able to remember information or situations that occurred during that particular emotion (Amabile et al., 2005). Emotional ambivalence may be able to strengthen creative responses by incorporating more than one memory or previous examples of information and past situations, through the experience of two or more emotions (Amabile et al., 2005). When recalling these past events or information, brain areas become activated, when two or more emotions are experienced simultaneously it allows a combination of information to be shared in a unique way leading to more creative responses (Amabile et al., 2005). These creative responses are beyond that which would be available if only one emotion was experienced at a time, due to one emotion restricting the range of information and combination of resources available when compared to those who experience two or more emotions simultaneously (Amabile et al., 2005).
The idea that emotional ambivalence increases creativity has been supported by studies by Fong (2006) who induced emotional ambivalence through a short video before asking them to complete the Remote Associatives Task to test creativity,results found that for emotional ambivalence to be able to increase creativity they had to perceive experiencing two emotions as once as an unusual phenomena, rather than a common occurrence. This was necessary to enhance creativity because similar to the mood as input theory, emotions need to signal that this is not a normal occurrence and that more effort or a different way of thinking is required (Fong, 2006). However like other studies, the generalizability of experimental inducing of emotions and subsequent creativity to workplaces or other situations which have confounding factors such as stress, other people or impending deadlines. Similar to previous research, many include university students because they are easily accessible, however they may be used to being creative and being asked to complete tasks within settings that people in everyday life would not. Therefore more research may need to include different ages, backgrounds and occupations in order to gain a more comprehensive overview of the influence of emotions on creativity (Fong, 2006).
Does emotion really influence creativity?
Is creativity affected by transient states such as emotions or affect, or is creativity more ingrained in individual differences? Research has shown that creative individuals often possess personality traits that may make them more open to be able to view problems differently or develop new ideas (Akinola & Mendes, 2008). These traits may include but are not limited to ‘introversion, emotional sensitivity, openness to experience and impulsivity’ (Akinola & Mendes, 2008, p. 1).
Fong (2006) studied the effects of emotional ambivalence on creativity in university students. Creativity was measured using the Remote Associatives Test, a commonly used way to determine creativity and emotional ambivalence was determined through the integration of several different measurement factors (Fong, 2006). Neither positive emotions nor negative emotions were correlated with creativity (Fong, 2006). However, this could be related to not having a standardised or previously tested measure of ambivalence.
Can we alter our creativity through emotions?
Emotions are clearly correlated with creativity. As many of the studies only measured an individual's mood and did not alter them, there is much speculation on how this could be done, however some suggestions have been made by Isen et al. (1987) and Lewis, Haviland-Jones and Barrett (2008) (see Table 1 for examples of both positive and negative induction of mood). These could be introduced in workplace settings or other areas where creativity may be needed, for example in assessment tasks, party planning, writing or areas where creativity may be necessary for the task.
Ways to arouse different emotions
|How to increase positive mood||How to induce negative mood|
|Using humour||Using imagery tasks|
|Watching a short clip||Watching a short clip|
|Offering rewards or incentives||Taking away an incentive|
|Offering monetary incentives||Rumination on a past negative event|
|Free food||Awareness and focusing on negative feelings to bring them forth|
(Isen et.al, 1987; Lewis et al. 2008).
There have been many studies that implicate emotions in the domain of creativity. However, there is still much disparity among which emotions have the biggest influence. According to the broaden-and-build theory, positive emotions allow greater expansion of thoughts leading to more creative ideas (Fredrickson, 2001). Although other theories such as the mood-as-input model have stated that negative emotions lead to enhanced focus on the task and invokes creativity by way of signalling that the task is not being successfully completed (Davis, 2009) and the mood congruency theory which states that alternating between different emotions leads to creativity through accessing of different memories and activation of different brain areas associated with the emotion, allowing an individual to combine and compare information in new and different ways (Amabile et al, 2005). More research may need to be conducted in naturalistic settings to determine whether creativity and emotion induced in experimental settings can be translated the same to real-world settings.
Though all thesehave conflicting evidence as shown by supporting studies, there is no doubt that emotions increase creativity. This may have important implications on real-life situations, if these results allow us to accurately generate emotions when creativity is needed for a task . Some examples of how creativity may be promoted is through short films, using humour, becoming aware and focusing on particular emotions and using or taking away incentives/rewards. Therefore emotions may be an important part of creativity and can be willingly induced at times when creativity is needed.
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