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Surprising Science

How Creativity Might Be Tied to Sanity and Madness Alike

Having a creative mind may correlate with both sanity and madness, debunking the popular notions that creative people tend toward having a mental illness.

What’s the Latest?

Having a creative mind may correlate with both sanity and madness, debunking the popular notion that creative people tend toward mental instability. While tales of Vincent Van Gogh–and more recent video of Michael Jackson–indulge our romantic notion that genius is inherently unstable, “[t]here are people who are mentally ill and are creative, but the opposite is much more common,” says psychologist Arne Dietrich of the American University of Beirut. “So the link is actually negative, not positive.” The vast majority of creative people are not mentally ill, and the great majority of mentally ill people are not geniuses. 

What’s the Big Idea?

A “mad-genius paradox” has been proposed by creativity scholar Dean Keith Simonton of the University of California at Davis. According to Simonton, one’s view of how creativity relates to mental illness depends on how you slice the pie. On the whole, creative people actually have lower incidences of mental illness than non-creative people. Of those who are considered creative, however, the individuals who make the most significant and original contributions to their field–the “geniuses”–could tend toward having higher rates of mental illness than those who offer fewer creative contributions. 

Read more at Fast Company

Photo credit: Vadim Georgiev/Shutterstock

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