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Vulnerability to psychopathology and creativity: The role of approach-avoidance motivation and novelty seeking

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Abstract

Existing findings on the intriguing link between vulnerability to psychopathology and creativity are scattered and inconclusive. Here we report 3 studies (total N = 826) that tested a 2-step solution to the possible relationship between vulnerability to psychopathology and creativity. First, we propose that inclinations toward psychopathologies that are linked to the avoidance system (anxiety, depressive mood, negative schizotypy) can be clustered and distinguished from another cluster of psychopathologies that are linked to the approach system (hypomania, positive schizotypy). Second, we propose that inclinations toward avoidance-related (approach-related) psychopathologies associate with reduced (increased) creativity. Consistent with our first step, confirmatory factor analyses showed that trait anxiety, depressive mood, and negative schizotypy load on an avoidance-based vulnerability factor, whereas hypomania and positive schizotypy load on an approach-based vulnerability factor. Partial support for the second step was obtained: Whereas avoidance-based vulnerability to psychopathology was not related to creativity, approach-based vulnerability was associated with increased creativity. Finally, results showed that approach rather than avoidance-based vulnerability to psychopathology positively predicts creativity because it associates with stronger approach sensitivity toward novelty. However, based on the crosssectional nature of our research design no conclusions regarding causality can be drawn.

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