Publication Date

Summer 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Gregory Feist


Creativity, Genius, Psychopathology

Subject Areas



The mad genius debate has been a topic that has been discussed in both popular culture and academic discourse. The current study sought to replicate previous findings that linked psychopathology to creativity. A total of 165 biographies of eminent professionals (artists, scientists, athletes) were rated on 19 mental disorders using a three point scale of not present (0), probable (1), and present (2) for potential symptoms. Athletes served as an eminent but not creative comparison group in order to discern whether fame, independent of creativity, was associated with psychopathology. Comparison of proportion analyses were conducted to identify differences of proportion between these three groups for each psychopathology. Tests for one proportion were calculated to compare each group’s rates of psychopathology to the rates found in the U.S. population. These analyses were run twice, where subjects were dichotomized into present and not present categories; first, “present” included “probable” (inclusive) and second where it included only “present” (exclusive). Artists showed greater frequency rates of psychopathology than scientists and athletes in the more inclusive criteria for inclusion, whereas both artists and athletes showed greater frequency rates than scientists in the stricter criteria. Apart from anxiety disorder, athletes did not differ from the U.S. population in rates of psychopathology whereas artists differed from the population in terms of alcoholism, anxiety disorder, drug abuse, and depression. These data generally corroborate previous research on the link between creativity and psychopathology.