Mood & Creativity – Surrey University Lecturer Paul Sowden
It was my first time at a BPS Wessex event and this particular one was held at Surrey University on the evening of 29th September 2011. There were around 100 Psychologists (Clinical, Counselling, Developmental and Occupational) in attendance, ranging from PhD students and Chartered Psychologists practicing in the market, to academic psychologists sharing their knowledge and research.
One paper in particular came to my attention; it was the ‘mood and creativity’ session by Paul Sowden. Paul proposed that negative mood states can increase creative outputs. This at first glance appears to contradict the Hogan Dark Side theory that suggests under conditions of extreme pressure or complacency, creativity can turn into eccentricity.
Paul continued to show his research outlining that a negative mood increases the level of attention an individual pays to evaluating a new idea, however, a positive mood or state can create complacency that consequently stifles the evaluation element, believing everything will turn out well. Paul therefore summarised that “threatening situations mean that ideas are more fully evaluated, less risky and are therefore more fully optimised”.
Why is this? Paul believes that the increased levels of self -reflection, evaluation and assessment in creative analysis as a result of negative mood, increases the quality and validity of the creative output and success due to increase in evaluation.
On reflection, this research therefore supports Hogan rather than contradicts it. A dark side can be derived from complacency ‘or too much’ positive self-belief, thus creativity can become eccentric due to a lack of critical evaluation of the values of the ideas.
In conclusion, it is therefore proposed that:
A Positive Mood State =
However, too much positivity can mean that we over estimate how useful ideas are.
Whereas, a Negative Mood State =
Increased assessment of risk
Increased analysis of the impact of decisions
This means we are more discerning about how useful ideas are.
It is therefore important to remember when assessing individuals for Creativity that we should also look at an individual’s in terms of their optimism or realism, positivity or negativity. This information will help us to understand their overall creative approach. Those with a more pessimistic view will spend more time on interpretation and risk analysis and may therefore be better at developing realistic, creative ideas. Those with a optimistic view may spend less time on the analytical phase of idea creation.
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