How are Professional Artists Similar and Different from People Diagnosed with Schizophrenia?

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People “who are prone to psychosis” in its most “extreme” forms, such as delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized thought, have been found to also show especially elevated levels of creativity, writes a team of Austrian researchers in Frontiers in Psychology. However, in a review of the literature on this topic, they conclude that there is at least one key difference between those people who tend to only struggle with their psychotic experiences and those who manage to succeed in the arts.

The authors discuss one study in particular that “compared the association behavior of creative people (professional writers and actors) to individuals suffering from schizophrenia and normal controls.”

When given the instruction to be original, “the creative group showed highly original response behavior, similar or even more original than that of individuals with schizophrenia,” wrote the authors. “However, when instructed to generate common associations, the creative group performed similar to the control group, while the schizophrenic group still showed higher unusualness. Finally, the creative group was also better able to assess the commonness of their responses than individuals with schizophrenia.” In essence, the study showed that, though similarly highly original and creative, the professional artists could distinguish unusual perspectives and ideas from commonplace ones more readily than the people diagnosed with schizophrenia could.

“These findings demonstrate that creative people show a similar disposition for the generation of novelty like individuals suffering from schizophrenia, but they also show better control of their ideational output, including the evaluation of appropriateness of their responses,” concluded the authors.

(Full text) Creativity and psychopathology: are there similar mental processes involved in creativity and in psychosis-proneness? (Fink, Andreas et al. Frontiers in Psychology. October 24, 2014. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01211)

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I found the psychiatric community has a propensity to declare a creative person to have “psychosis,” when they don’t, then create psychosis with their antipsychotics. I also found the psychiatric community to have odd delusions that being an artist is the same thing as being “unemployed.” And I found the psychiatric community to harbor odd beliefs that those who are creative (thus use the left side of their brain) are incapable of also utilizing the right (analytical) side of their brain. But, as a woman who got in the top 99.95% on my math SAT’s, who is also an artist, I am living proof the apparently right brain thinking only / materialistic psychiatrists are wrong. I do so hope the psychiatric community stops making such misguided sweeping generalizations about other human beings and stops targeting the creative people – we, too, can research the fraud that is psychiatry. And tranquilizing all the creative and innovative thinkers is not in the best interest of humanity.

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