In my research into creativity, I came across an interesting article - Creativity, Evolution and Mental Illness. It’s chock full of jargon, difficult to get through but really insightful. I thought I might summarize it to include the most relevant info in a more approachable way – hopefully I do it justice! Here goes:
Creativity is the production of new and useful ideas and is closely linked to the group behavior of the person who holds the idea. The need for social testing of the creative product contributes to the creative potential in individuals. Creative people show risk-taking and novelty-seeking tendencies. This gives them greater independence and unconventionality but often leads to emotional instability. Therefore, creative individuals are prone to mental illnesses.
Many studies show mental illness among creative people is significantly higher than in the general population. Bipolar Disorder has the strongest connection to creativity. Characteristics that favor creative achievement in bipolar individuals:
- Emotional reactivity which gives them greater sensitivity and insight
- Lack of inhibition enables unrestrained forms of expression and they are less limited by social norms
- Sensitivity and lack of inhibition can make them warmer and friendlier enabling them to spread their ideas with greater ease
The bottleneck in cultural evolution is the capacity for innovation. Bipolar disorder endures through evolution because it is linked to creative abilities important for survival. Groups with creative personalities acquire an adaptive advantage which maintains the integrity of the group even though an individual is subject to depressive breakdowns.
The creation of new ideas requires combinations and transformations of old ones. People with Schizophrenia tend to allow unusual associations which result in irrelevant elements being included in their reasoning – this often becomes too overwhelming to them. Creative people have the ability to utilize these same unusual associations without becoming overwhelmed. They can bring together these unique elements to create innovative new solutions.
Therefore, madness is linked to creative genius. Creativity is a group outcome and requires social testing. And, groups with individuals who make unusual mental associations can take advantage of this even if the ability is a maladaptive trait.
My Thoughts as a Game Designer
I agree wholeheartedly with the article’s thoughts on creativity being dependent on groups – specifically because I believe ideas need a place to breed through collaboration with others and the most novel ideas really need user testing to validate them. I also believe in the value of diversity in teams, refer to my bog post on women in games for more details! But, learning how conditions which may be defined as disabilities actually enables more creativity in teams makes me value diversity so much more.
My Recommendations to You
- Let yourself loose and worry less about what others think of you.
- If you know someone with strong creative abilities (even if they might be maladaptive) learn how to cultivate their creativity for your benefit and realize they might be able to “see” things you don’t. Be nice to them
For the person with creative yet maladaptive traits, I’ve derived this article to mean:
- Find a group of people who are supportive of both your creative abilities and your maladaptive traits.
- Realize people may not be able to “see” what you see and therefore you must learn how to sell your ideas to them in a way they can respond to. Be nice to them