Zijn mensen met depressie meer creatief?

Je hoort het af en toe, mensen die het psychisch wat moeilijker hebben, zijn creatiever. Maar is dat zo? Dit is het soort van vraag dat moeilijk te beantwoorden is. Niet zozeer omdat het moeilijk te meten is – wat het vaak wel al is -, maar omdat creativiteit een moeilijk te definiëren woord is. Voor ons boek over mythes onderzocht ik zelf de claims van Ken Robinson en ontdekte ik de vele definities van creativiteit die er zoal in omloop zijn.

Maar… in een new review in Perspectives on Psychological Science, heeft Christa Taylor van de Albany State University een meer dan verdienstelijke poging gedaan om deze vragen te beantwoorden. Het gaat niet over 1 meta-analyse, maar om verschillende meta-analyses naast elkaar om de verschillende deelvragen te beantwoorden waarbij Taylor steeds specifieke relevante data plukte uit 36 datasets waarbij sommige datasets enorm groot waren met meer dan een miljoen personen.

En wat is het antwoord:ja en nee. BPS Digest vat samen:

Taylor first looked at whether creative people are more likely to have a mood disorder compared to non-creative controls. She looked at data from from ten studies involving fine arts students, creative writers, and eminent figures from creative fields, and found that yes, there was a clear relationship between being creative and having a diagnosis of a mood disorder, such as depression (overall the association had a moderate-to-large effect size). This finding held across different ways of measuring creativity, such as musical performance or tests of divergent thinking (finding new ideas or solutions). Creativity was most commonly associated with bipolar disorder (a condition marked by periods of low and high mood). It was not associated with all mood disorders – for instance, dysthymic disorder (frequent short episodes of low mood) was no more common among creative people than controls.

To address a slightly different question –  compared to healthy controls, are people with a clinical diagnosis of mood disorder more creative? – Taylor used a second meta-analysis combining 13 studies, including a set of mega-studies involving millions of people. The answer was a quavering no, not really. Overall, differences in creativity between people with mood disorder and control were statistically non-significant. Taylor only detected any meaningful differences by narrowing the definition of creativity – people with mood disorders scored higher for painting ability, for instance, but not for many other measures, such as on laboratory tests of creativity, for example. Focusing on specific disorders, Taylor found some evidence for superior creativity among those with bipolar disorder and major depression (but still the differences from controls were modest).

Dus samengevat: creatieve mensen hebben meer kans op psychische moeilijkheden, maar psychische moeilijkheden maken iemand in het algemeen niet creatiever.

Abstract van het onderzoek:

Although the belief that creativity is related to psychopathology is prevalent, empirical evidence is limited. Research findings relating to mood disorder in particular are mixed, possibly as a result of differing research approaches (e.g., assessing the creativity of individuals with versus without mood disorder opposed to the prevalence of mood disorder in creative versus noncreative individuals). Therefore, a systematic review and meta-analysis were conducted to investigate prior research examining the link between mood disorder and creativity from three distinct research approaches. Multilevel random effects models were used to calculate the overall effect size for studies that assessed (a) creativity in a clinical versus nonclinical sample (k = 13), (b) mood disorder in a creative versus noncreative sample (k = 10), and (c) the correlation between dimensional measures of creativity and mood disorder symptoms (k = 15). Potential moderators were examined using meta-regression and subgroup analyses, as significant heterogeneity was detected among the effects in all three analyses. Results reveal a differential strength and pattern of effects across the three analyses, suggesting that the relationship between creativity and mood disorder differs according to the research approach. The theoretical implications of results and potential mechanisms responsible for the relationship between creativity and mood disorder are discussed.

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