The Power of Negative Moods

December 29, 2010 Katharina Lochner

Many creative geniuses are famous for their negative moods or even suffered from a real depression

This applies to writers, musicians, painters, and many other. So, does being depressive or at least in a sad mood enhance creativity?

Modupe Akinola and Wendy Mendes from Harvard University say yes. In their study, they first induced positive or negative mood by giving their participants positive or negative feedback during a mock job interview (consisting of a speech and a question-and-answer period). Subsequently, the participants had to complete artistic collages that were evaluated by artists afterwards. It turned out that participants who were in a bad mood due to social rejection in the interview were more creative than those who were in a good mood. So according to this study, being in a bad mood leads to enhanced creativity.

You can find the original article here.

At first glance, this finding seems to be in sharp contrast to studies conducted by Alice Isen and her colleagues (e.g., Isen, Daubman & Nowicki, 1987), in which they come to the conclusion that good moods improve creativity.

However, the findings are not contradictory when viewed in terms of activation. Carsten De Dreu from the University of Amsterdam and his colleagues come to the conclusion that activating moods like anger and happiness enhance creativity, compared to deactivating moods like sadness or relaxation. Positive tone evokes cognitive flexibility, whereas negative tone leads to more persistence.

The original article can be found here.

Therefore, it is not necessarily the mood that creativity is dependent on. It is rather how we deal with it. When we are in a good mood, we must not become complacent, but rather maintain drive and determination. And when in a negative mood, we must not fall into apathy, but activate ourselves, prove the world that we can do it.

About the Author

Katharina Lochner

Dr Katharina Lochner is the former research director for the cut-e Group which was acquired by Aon in 2017. Katharina is now a researcher and lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences Europe in Iserlohn, Germany. In her role at cut-e, she applied the research in organizational and work psychology to real-world assessment practice. She has a strong expertise in the construction and evaluation of online psychometric tools.

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