Psychopathology in world-class artistic and scientific creativity

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Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts




The role of psychopathology in creative achievement has long been a debated topic in both popular culture and academic discourse. Yet the field is settling on various robust trends that show there is no one answer. Conclusions vary by level and kind of creativity and level and kind of psychopathology. The current study sought to replicate previous findings that linked lifetime rates of psychopathology to world-class levels of creativity. A total of 199 biographies of eminent professionals (creative artists, creative scientists, eminent athletes) were rated by raters who were blind to the identity of the eminent person on 19 mental disorders using a 3-point scale of not present (0), probable (1), and present (2). Athletes served as an eminent but not creative comparison group to discern whether fame, independently of creativity, was associated with psychopathology. Results showed that artists exhibited higher lifetime rates of psychopathology than scientists and athletes in the more inclusive criterion for psychopathology (i.e., it was either probable or present), whereas both artists and athletes exhibited higher rates than scientists in the stricter criterion for psychopathology (i.e., it was present). Apart from anxiety disorder, athletes did not differ from the U.S. population in lifetime rates of psychopathology, whereas artists differed from the population in terms of alcoholism, anxiety disorder, drug abuse, and depression. These data generally corroborate and replicate previous biographical research on the link between artistic creativity and life-time rates of psychopathology. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)