Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Creativity and Psychopathy: Higher Rates of Psychosis Proneness and Nonright-Handedness Among Creative Artists

Creativity and Psychopathy: Higher Rates of Psychosis Proneness and Nonright-Handedness Among Creative Artists 


Summary:
Preti and Vellante claim that creative individuals often describe having “odd sensory and perceptual experiences”. These cognitive similarities, for example, loose associations, broad attentional focus, and the ability to connect novel information, has also been seen in schizophrenic individuals. This suggests that there is a link between creative individuals and schizophrenic individuals. In fact, previous studies have found that creative individuals typically score higher on tests that measure psychoticism. However, these results have been inconsistent and they have failed to consider substance abuse, which might be a contributing factor, among creative artists. 
Previous studies have also found that those with schizophrenia who had higher reports of unusual subject experiences had a higher frequency of abnormal hemispheric lateralization. It was also observed in several studies that individuals with schizophrenia tend to be left handed with decreased language lateralization and decreased or reversed anatomic asymmetry. Nonright handedness is commonly seen among creative individuals as well, and researchers think that this might be a marker of disrupted brain lateralization in cognitive functions which may lead creative individuals to have unusual subjective experiences. However, these experiences themselves are not a marker of psychosis. Those in the general population who score high on psychosis proneness and schizotypy were found to be mixed handedness. 
In this study, Preti and Vellante investigated whether unusual subjective experiences were related to nonright handedness in creative artists. The researchers used the Peters et al. Delusions Inventory (PDI) to assess psychosis proneness of a general population. The PDI includes 21 questions, for instance, “do you ever feel that you are especially close to God?” and “Do you ever feel as if someone is deliberately trying to harm you?” Researchers also used the General Health Questions (GHQ) to measure psychological distress on a 4 point scale (“not at all”, “less than usual”, “more than usual”, and “rather more than usual”). Some examples of questions that were on the GHQ are, “Have you recently been feeling unhappy and depressed?” and “Have you felt you couldn’t overcome your difficulties?” 
160 participants completed the PDI and GHQ. Of these, 80 were professional artists (30 musicians, 25 painters, 25 writers), while the other 80 participants were in noncreative professions. To investigate handedness, researchers used The Annett Hand Preference Questionnaire (HPQ). Participants were asked if they use their right, left, or both hands in the following primary actions: writing, throwing, hammering, brushing teeth, etc. They were also asked about handedness in nonprimary actions: dealing cards, opening a jar, threading a needle, etc. Subjects were then grouped into one of three groups depending on which hand was more dominant in the primary actions: fully dextral, fully sinistral, and ambidextral or mixed. Those in the fully dextral group preferred their right hand, those in the fully sinistral group had a preference for their left hand, and the ambidextral/mixed group were those who were inconsistent in reporting a preference. Furthermore, subjects were asked about their experience with any psychoactive substances such as alcohol, nicotine, cannabis, ecstasy, LSD, etc. 
In handedness, 81% of the artists were fully dextral, 6% were fully sinistral and 12% were ambidextral/mixed. In the control group, 97% were fully dextral and 3% were ambidextral/mixed. It was found that artists, specifically musicians and painters, were more likely to use their left hand compared to nonartists. This may mean that these artists use more of their right hemisphere in their artistic profession, and that this is not the result of greater development of both hands due to their profession. However, this may be true for musicians. The artists scored higher on the PDI and the authors think this has to do with their use of psychoactive substances. It was found that creative artists were statistically more likely to report unusual subject experiences of a delusion-like nature when compared to the control group, supporting the idea that higher schizotypy scores are seen in artistic and creative people. Furthermore, creative artists were more likely to report a left hand preference. 

Reflection:
As I am interested in psychosis and it’s link to creative artists, I found this study to be fascinating. It is interesting to me that artists seem to report that they have more unusual subjective experiences. Are these experiences coincidental? Are artists simply more open to them? Do the artists maybe have different definitions amongst themselves for what determines an experience to be “unusual”? 
It was interesting that the researchers speculated that the participants’ history of legal and illegal drug use, rather than more scientific reasons such as genes, were the reason for their high PDI scores. With respect to this, the researchers did not describe whether small or large amounts or psychoactive substances were used. They also did not state which drug was used most and how regularly. If researchers claim that artists scored higher on the PDI and that psychoactive substances may be the reason, it would be helpful to know more about this.
I thought it was interesting that the researchers connected these unusual experiences to handedness. It was surprising to me that there were no left-handed people in the nonartistic group. However, that that being said, there were only five left-handed artists, two of which were painters, and the other three were musicians. It could be that this particular sample yielded these particular results. 
The most fascinating point in this article is that the results seem to confirm a connection between creativity and reports of unusual subjective beliefs and experiences. In researching this topic and reading other articles, I have found that generally, it is agreed that there is a link between creativity and psychosis, however, that researchers have had different reasons as to why this may be. I have also found that researchers have different definitions of what creativity really is. How do we also address how to measure creativity in different forms? For example, a dancer and an artist. Shalley (1991) defines creativity as having three factors: ability, intrinsic motivation, and cognitive activities. However, others might define creativity as creating a work of some type or remaining flexible in order to problem solve. More research and a clearer consensus of what creativity is, is needed. 

References: 
Preti, A., & Vellante, M. (2007). Creativity and psychopathology: Higher rates of psychosis proneness and nonright-handedness among creative artists compared to same age and gender peers. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 195(10), 837-845. http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/NMD.0b013e3181568180

Shalley, C. E. (1991). Effects of productivity goals, creativity goals, and personal discretion on individual creativity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 76, 179-185. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.76.2.179

1 comment:

Doug Brenton said...

Thank you for posting a blog related to this topic because I have always believed that there is a link between creative individuals and schizophrenic individuals. However, I did not know that that creative individuals typically score higher on tests that measure psychoticism. I can understand why the results have been inconsistent because substance abuse is a topic that is not explored enough with in a lot of psychoanalysis. I find it interesting that even in schizophrenic studies there is evidence shown that abnormal hemispheric lateralization is present. Throughout my brain research in the course, I have seen the same in a lot of autistic research. Maybe there is a link between the two somehow? I was amazed to read the type of subjective questions that they ask their subjects. These questions are quite personal and at times, conservertial in terms of it not being equitable. Religion is is strong area of interest and I can validate the reasoning behind asking such a question, however I also fear that the choice of language is inequitable (i.e. "God" versus using the word "Divine"). Of the 80 professional artists (30 musicians, 25 painters, 25 writers), and the other 80 participants as noncreative professions, what exactly is "noncreative"? Again, the language chosen to identify these subjects may not be the most equitable. I believe every human subject is creative one way or another. For example, Dr. Michael Gazzaniga of University of California has shown techniques in network and information analysis to provide empirical support for such a widespread and interconnected information processing network in the brain that supports the manipulation of visual imagery. This proves that any human subject is creative. I worry that this Creativity and Psychopathy is not defining "creativity" at its best. I looked up your Shalley reference and I can empthatize that defines creativity as having three factors: ability, intrinsic motivation, and cognitive activities. Aside from my opinion about this portion of the research, I really enjoy reading the results. I can understand why tt was found that artists, specifically musicians and painters, were more likely to use their left hand compared to nonartists. I agree that this may mean that these artists use more of their right hemisphere in their artistic profession, and that this is not the result of greater development of both hands due to their profession.
Within your reflection, I too, thought it was interesting that the researchers connected these unusual experiences to handedness and there were no left-handed people in the nonartistic group. Thank you for a great post!