A little more stress can help you produce more creative work, new research from Singapore Management University shows. On Pacific Standard, Tom Jacobs explores the findings to explain why:

274 Taiwanese university students…filed out a questionnaire designed to measure intrinsic neuroticism. They were then asked to recall a happy, worrisome, or neutral experience…The result: Under the heavy cognitive load, neurotic people displayed more flexible thinking after recalling worrisome events. This was in contrast to people low on the neuroticism scale, who displayed the most mental flexibility after recalling neutral events.

It all suggests that, in the researchers’ words, “Individuals vary in their preferences for experiencing happy or worrisome emotions prior to performing a creativity task.” If worry is your default state, intensifying it slightly may actually prompt more flexible thinking.

As Jacobs explains: the results of this study are entirely personal, preferences vary by each individual. But if you’re an anxious person, embrace your natural tendencies rather than getting in the “perfect” mindset to create.  


  • http://www.vitamincm.com VitaminCM

    Or in Woody Allen’s case it could make you a Pedofile – Allegedly.

  • Anonymous

    I think you have to draw a line between just being asked to recal worrisome events versus being an anxious person (who might have Generalized Anxiety Disorder actually, or some other mental health issue). As someone who does actually suffer from a mental health disorder, the idea of creative work = anxiety, depression, tortured souls, etc. needs to come with a disclaimer that it could be that you will actually be able to do more creative work if you get some help with that!

  • fmd

    Ugh.. Please call it anything but the “Woody Allen Effect.” It’s not cute or funny.

  • fmd

    Actually, I doubt that even Woody Allen is actually anxious or “neurotic.” He uses the anxiety schtick to disguise his deeper pathologies.

  • Airwave

    Another great article, thank you. As a Designer, I am aware that being ‘slightly off’, can assist with creative jump starts, however being truly anxious or upset is contrary…there’s a balance, a personal one for everyone. Anger has no place in my work for example, but ‘edge’ and paranoid certainly fits in, with a direct hard wiring to the zone for endless hours of great work…also serving as the great escape. Good luck to everyone finding their special blend!

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