Optimist or pessimist

Eggs_Expressions_Happy_Sad1How does a person’s view of the world –optimistic or pessimistic–affect creativity? Psychologist have noted that the average human has a bias towards optimism. People live with the illusion that most situations will turn out better than they actually do. Unrealistic optimism seems to be the norm. On the other hand. pessimism may result in a darker than actual view of the future. Severely depressed people expect more problems than really do occur. The slightly depressed people tend to have the most realistic view of the future [1].

In the world of the ancient Greeks, the character of authors, artists, and composers was often connected with melancholy, a sense of pervasive sadness. In modern times, philosophical pessimism seems rampant among creative people. Just look at the life and work of Miguel de Cervantes, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Joseph Conrad, Richard Wagner, Edward Munch,  Thomas Mann,  Jorge Luis Borges and Albert Camus. However, philosophical pessimism is a view of the human predicament. Negative outcomes for humankind are seen as the result of a hostile universe. This philosophy counters the view that humans are improving and may upset many people.

The relationship of optimism and pessimism to creativity depends how creativity is determined. One way is to test a people considered creative by their peers using a  personality inventory, such as the study that used the Khatena-Torrance Creative Perception Inventory (Khatena & Torrance, 1976) and the Attributional Style Questionnaire (Seligman, 1990) to determine if people with creative personalities showed more more trust in good outcomes or bad outcomes for the future. This study among college students found optimism had a positive correlation with characteristics such as artistic production, openness to ideas and self-confidence. On the other hand pessimism was correlated with lower scores in inquisitiveness. But overall there was not a significant relationship between the creative personality and either optimism or pessimism.[2] Another similar study showed that both positive and negative emotions contributed to the creative personality, with pessimism enhancing apparent creativity.[3]

However, the idea of the melancholic writer, composer or artist continues to be pervasive. It is possible that this pessimistic view of mankind drives the most notable creators to the solitary task of producing something artistic. It may be that they find some satisfaction in the beauty of producing something unique to show their baleful outlook.

Photo from  http://pdpics.com/

[1] Taylor, S. E. & Brown, J. D. (1988). Illusion and well-being: A social psychological perspective on mental health. Psychological Bulletin, 103, 193—210.
[2] Reffel, J. A. (2010, July). Optimism, Pessimism and Creativity. Paper presented at the 11th Asia Pacific Conference on Giftedness, Sydney, Australia.
[3] Charyton, Christine; Hutchison, Shannon; Snow, Lindsay; Rahman, Mohammed A.; Elliott, John O.Creativity as an Attribute of Positive Psychology: The Impact of Positive and Negative Affect on the Creative Personality, Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, v4 n1 p57-66 2009
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1 Response to Optimist or pessimist

  1. knlistman says:

    Reblogged this on Write about what? and commented:

    Is an artist usually optimistic or pessimistic?

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