Go Ahead and Get Mad: Why Anger Spurs Creativity (But Not for Long)

(Polka Dot)

A series of studies by Dutch researchers examines the effect anger has on people’s problem solving skills, and finds that angry people produce a higher volume of ideas, as well as more creative ones than their non-angry counterparts. The study’s authors reason that anger is usually accompanied by a feeling of intense energy and a less-structured style of thinking, two factors that lead to creative forms of brainstorming.

That burst of productivity however is short-lived and ultimately creativity is reduced as a result. The authors found that anger leads to initially higher levels of creativity than sadness, but that anger depletes resources more. As a result creative performance declines over time more for angry people than sad ones.

So, if it’s your job to be creative for long periods of time, better to be sad than angry. But if all you need are short bursts of sporadic creativity, rage away.

The study is published in the November issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

Here’s the abstract:

Anecdotes and introspective reports from eminent scientists and artists aside, a systematic test of the putative creativity-enhancing effect of anger is missing. This article fills this void with three experiments examining creativity as a function of anger (vs. sad or a mood-neutral control state). Combining insights from the literatures on creativity and on mood and information processing the authors predicted that anger (vs. sadness and a mood-neutral control state) triggers a less systematic and structured approach to the creativity task, and leads to initially higher levels of creativity (as manifested in original ideation and creative insights). Following work on resource depletion, the authors further predicted that anger more than sadness depletes resources and that, therefore, creative performance should decline over time more for angry than for sad people. Results supported predictions. Implications for creativity, information processing, and resource depletion are discussed.

Leave A Comment

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

 

COMMENTS: 4

View All Comments »
  1. Kendra says:

    ‘Discontent is the neccessity of progress.’
    I think a moderate amount of fear must do a similar thing, or activate responses in the mind for creative solutions.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  2. Corban says:

    Anger – The afterburner for muses

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
  3. nobody.really says:

    This report conforms to my experience. When I write a legal brief, I get hopped up on caffeine and spontaneously start telling myself what SOBs the other side is for not conceding the obvious merits of my arguments. It all flows.

    The next day I return to my draft, remove the adjectives, adverbs, and expletives, and put in the footnotes. All done!

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1
  4. Kamaria K. says:

    Nuetral feelings bring the most creative ideas, if you ask me. Because when you make up creative ideas only when you are angry/sad/ or scared, then you limit yourself to only one perspective of thinking. When a person is nuetral and in a calm state of mind they can still come up with crazy ideas, but also logic ideas. You could ask yourself, “What would I do if I let my anger/sadness or fear take control?” But you don’t have to be either of them.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0