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Schizotypy & Creativity: Schizotypy and mental health amongst poets visual artists, and mathematics.


There has always been a notion that there has to be a connection between creativity and the predisposition to mental illness.

This article in particular Daniel Nettle categorises the element of mental illness into numerous schizotypal traits of people who suffer from serious psychopathology, by a series of studies and the use of an O-LIFE inventory, Nettle investigates into the different domains of creativity with the use of a sample consisting of mathematicians, artists, poets, psychiatric patients and the general population, within these studies he concentrates on the similarities and differentiating factors of those who are considered healthy creative’s, who hold schizotypal traits and psychopathology.

It was discovered that poets and artists have a higher level of unusual experiences than general population which coincidently coincide with those who have schizophrenia, other articles support the similarities between creativity and schizophrenia in particular (Kirton 1989)identifies that the ability to produce new ideas and adapt, improve, or create new functions for existing products defines creativity although these are skills that are impaired in majority of patients with schizophrenia, Nettle’ however made an identification that the defining difference between the two was the negative aspect of introvertive anhedonia which was present with psychiatric patients, however poets and artists had a relatively low dimension of this.

Elements of creativity consists of different domains within a specialist subject, because there are many sections of the brain required to control the element of thinking, schizophrenia, affective disorder and mathematics is an example of convergent thinking and autism to which introvertive ahedonia is a revealing characteristic.

The first of the series of studies revealed was based upon biographical and survey studies that identified high levels of psychopathology, particularly depression and bipolar disorder which was established as a commodity among individuals immersed in the fields of literature and the arts this supported the notion that there is a link.(Andreasen, 1987; Andresen & Carter, 1974; Jameson, 1989, 1993; Ludwig 1995; Post, 1994)

The secondary studies however were family studies, which unveiled relations into creative traits and aptitudes of close relatives of psychiatric patients excluding the confounding variable of proximity as it included those that had been separated by adoption.

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Fisher et al (2004) agrees as he suggested creativity may be genetically mediated. A study in support of this found that, a number of female writers, displayed creativity and a range of mental illnesses, which were also apparent in their close relatives (Ludwig, 1994). These studies conducted between the time of (1966 Heston, 1988 Kinney and Lunde) were suggestive of the idea that personality and cognitive traits are hereditary which interlinks the effects of mental illness and creativity. Geofrey F Miller, I.R tal article investigated into the extent to which schizophrenia and aspects of schizotypy was hereditary especially in terms of positive side effects such as divergent thinking and creativity, this article questions the possibility as to whether psychoticism can filter throughout genes and develop into other characteristics. Within this article in particular it argues that the creativity link is mediated by the personality traits openness and creativity and intelligence. Although in standard creativity models self reported family history of schizophrenia spectrum disorders did not predict creativity.

The third types of studies investigated into psychiatric patients diagnosed with schizophrenia and the comparison of their performance in alternate uses tasks that access divergent thinking with controls, it was discovered schizophrenia patients scored much higher. Neuropsychological evidence brought together by (Jocelyn et al 2004) finds evidence is in support of Nettles discovery, with schizotypy being a pronness to schizophrenia , it is not surprising that it is a commodity within research that positive schizotypy is related to patterns of cognitive and emotional function (divergent thinking ) which is a strong factor associated with both creativity and psychopathology.

In the next couple of studies, the fourth one like the third accessed the performances of creativity among the general population however this was against a scale designed to assess correlation as an indication of that particular individual’s liability to psychopathology.The final approach was basically a psychometric assessment of those in creative pursuits (Barron 1969; Eysenck 1993), though the outcome of these results were not as straight forward because they failed to identify a direct relationship, based upon the psychometric test used to identify personality traits, creative individuals showed very similar high levels in traits like neuroticism and openness to experience.

The O-life gives adequate psychometric properties in general population. Although, scales have not been tested for criterion validity against groups diagnosed with relevant psychopathology. (Jackson 1997) argues many high scorers of unusual experiences, do not suffer from psychopathology.A study by Gallup (1989, cited in Gallup & Newport, 2006) found that 43% of Americans and 33% of British had encountered unusual experiences, some a result of religion, suggesting more normality than psychopathology. This establishes an invalidation as unusual experiences are not has no direct correlation with psychopathology nor does it suggest mental illness which is evident from the Gallup study.

D. Nettles article repeatedly argues however more specifically that positive schizotypy is considered to be closely linked further to artistic creativity as opposed to scientific, throughout corresponding articles; it has been a common factor to find that scientific creativity has been more strongly associated with negative attributes such as intovertion or autism.

Literature suggests relationships between scizoptypy and creativity is an inverted U with both attributes increasing together, however as psychopathology begins to take its toll creativity lapses and begins to decrease (Akisktal, Akisktal and Richards et al 1988) this result was contradicted because mentioned earlier within the article research states schizophrenic patients had an enhanced performance on divergent thinking. Ludwig (1995) found that although those with creative brilliance did suffer from more psychological disturbances, symptoms were not serious enough to be considered abnormal. In support of the counter argument (Frank Barron 1972) drew to the conclusion that successful creativity is a combination of psychopathology and ego alleging it is the ability to cope with stress that is the determinant as to whether the outcome leads to the onset of damaging symptoms such as introvertive ahedonia and debilitating psychopathology or creative output.

Fisher, E.J article addressed the debate from a neuropsychological prospective and proposed the link between mental illness and creativity is likely due to common cognitive features involving the right hemisphere of the brain. Although Nettle considers evidence from previous studies, he fails to consider neuropsychological factors that link creativity and mental illness.

The fact that aspects defining creativity are all considered existent impaired factors that are immanent within schizophrenic patients, cannot deter the obvious link; however that is only in reference to one diagnosed mental disease that being schizophrenia, in terms of generalising to the terminologies psychosis and psychopathology that has yet to be debated. As much as evidence highlighted in this article supported the notion of the links between the ideology of creativity and mental illness, revelation into the questioning of reliability of certain methods of testing may need to be addressed such as the inconsistency of subjects per group; a significantly higher number of poets and visual artists than mathematicians and the participants talents were based upon self report forms which can be considered ambiguous, especially when participants had to differentiate between ‘professional’ or ‘seriously involved’ making it difficult to establish the participants true level.

Nettle recognises the association between creativity and mental illness and demonstrates strong arguments, initiating the likes of Rawlings & Locarnini and Miller to use Nettle as a foundation for their research, so Nettles contribution is undeniable as it was pioneering for further research to be conducted.


Fisher. al (2004) Neuropsychological evidence for dimensional scizoptypy: Implications for creativity and psychopathology. Journal of Research in Personality, 38, 24-31

Gallup, A. M & Newport, F. (2006). The Gallup Poll: Public Opinion 2004. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. USA.

Miller. F.G (2007) Schizotypy versus openness and intelligence as predictors of creativity. Schizophrenia Research, 93, 317-324

Nettle, D. (2005). Schizotypy and mental health amongst poets, visual artists, and

mathematicians. Journal of Research in Personality, 40, 876-90

Rawlings. D, Locarnini. A (2007) Dimensional Schizoptypy , autism, and unusual word associations in artists and scientists. Journal of research in Personality, 42, 465-471

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