Chapter 6 - The Function of Personality in Creativity  pp. 113-130

The Function of Personality in Creativity

By Gregory J. Feist

Image View Previous Chapter Next Chapter



  • The cave paintings of Lascaux.
  • The great Pyramids of Egypt.
  • Plato's philosophical works.
  • Copernicus's heliocentric astronomy.
  • Shakespeare's plays.
  • Newton's calculus and theories of gravity and mechanics.
  • Beethoven's and Mozart's symphonies.
  • Darwin's (and Wallace's) theory of natural selection.
  • Einstein's theory of relativity.
  • Watson and Crick's discovery of the DNA molecule.

These are just a few of the truly creative accomplishments of our species. When truly creative ideas, pieces of art, or behavior occur, we all want to know: How did that happen? Who created that? Why didn't I think of that?! Assuming one's curiosity is peaked, then the next set of questions that comes up is, What qualities of thought or personality does that person have that the rest of us do not have? What makes him or her so special?

Creativity of that magnitude is special and exceedingly rare. Yet creativity comes in many different forms, shades, and hues. First, the creativity of great artists and scientists is what attracts most attention, and for good reason. These enterprises are cornerstones of culture and provide mileposts of our cultural development and progress. And yet, not everyone who is an artist or scientist is equally creative, nor are all creative people either artists or scientists. Some are creative in business, in their understanding of other people, or simply in living. In short, the qualities of creativity that are both fascinating and yet frustrating are its complexity and variability. This chapter reviews the current (last 10 years of) research on personality and creativity that mostly supports but occasionally calls for modifications in the model I proposed in both qualitative and quantitative reviews of the late 1990s (Feist, 1998, 1999).

Adelson, B. 2003 Issues in scientific creativity: Insight, perseverance and personal technique profiles of the 2002 Franklin institute laureates Journal of the Franklin Institute 340 163
Aguilar-Alonso, A. 1996 Personality and creativity Personality and Individual Differences 21 959
Allport, G. W. 1937 Personality: A psychological interpretation New York Holt, Rinehart, & Winston
Amabile, T. 1996 Creativity in context Boulder, CO Westview
Amabile, T. Barsade, S. Mueller, J. Staw, B. 2005 Affect and creativity at work Administrative Science Quarterly 50 367
American Psychiatric Association (APA) 2000 DSM-IV-TR Washington, DC Author
Andreasen, N.C. 2005 The creative brain: The science of genius London Plume Books
Arndt, J. Greenberg, J. Solomon, S. Pyszczynski, T. Schimel, J. 1999 Creativity and terror management: Evidence that creative activity increases guilt and social projection following mortality salience Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 77 19
Baltes, P.B. Reuter-Lorenz, P.A. Rösler, F. 2006 Lifespan development and the brain: The perspective of biocultural co-constructivism New York Cambridge University Press
Bandura, A. 1986 Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory Englewood Cliffs, NJ Prentice-Hall
Batey, M. Furnham, A. 2006 Creativity, intelligence, and personality: A critical review of the scattered literature Genetic, Social and General Psychology Monographs 132 355
Batey, M. Furnham, A. 2008 The relationship between measures of creativity and schizotypy Personality and Individual Differences 45 816
Beeman, M.J. Bowden, E. 2000 The right hemisphere maintains solution-related activation for yet-to-be solved insight problems Memory and Cognition 28 1231
Beeman, M.J. Bowden, E.M. Gernsbacher, M.A. 2000 Right and left hemisphere cooperation for drawing predictive and coherence inferences during normal story comprehension Brain and Language 71 310
Benbow, C. 1988 Sex differences in mathematical reasoning ability in intellectually talented preadolescents: Their nature, effects, and possible causes Behavioral and Brain Sciences 11 169
Bowden, E.M. Beeman, M.J. 1998 Getting the right idea: Semantic activation in the right hemisphere may help solve insight problems Psychological Science 6 435
Bowden, E.M. Jung-Beeman, M. 2003 Aha! Insight experience correlates with solution activation in the right hemisphere Psychonomic Bulletin and Review 10 730
Bradshaw, J.L. 1989 Hemispheric specialization and psychological function Chichester, Australia Wiley
Brody, N. Ehrlichman, H. 1998 Personality psychology: The science of individuality Upper Saddle River, NJ Prentice-Hall
Burch, G. Hemsley, D.R. Pavelis, C. Corr, P.J. 2006 Personality, creativity, and latent inhibition European Journal of Personality 20 107
Burch, G. St.J. Pavelis, C. Hemsley, D.R Corr, P.J. 2006 Schizotypy and creativity in visual artists British Journal of Psychology 97 177
Carlsson, I. Wendt, P.E. Risberg, J. 2000 On the neurobiology of creativity: Differences in frontal activity between high and low creative subjects Neuropsychologia 38 873
Carson, S.H. Peterson, J.B. Higgins, D.M. 2003 Decreased latent inhibition is associated with increased creative achievement in high-functioning individuals Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 85 399
Chávez-Eakle, R.A. Lara, M.C. Cruz-Fuentes, C. 2006 Personality: A possible bridge between creativity and psychopathology Creativity Research Journal 18 27
Chapman, J.P. Chapman, L.J. Kwapil, T.R. 1994 Does the Eysenck Psychoticism dimension predict psychosis? A ten year longitudinal study Personality and Individual Differences 17 369
Charyton, C. Snelbecker, G.E. 2007 Engineers’ and musicians’ choices of self-descriptive adjectives as potential indicators of creativity by gender and domain Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts 1 91
Choi, J.N. 2004 Individual and contextual predictors of creative performance: The mediating role of psychological processes Creativity Research Journal 16 187
Chow, T.W. Cummings, J.L. 1999 Frontal-subcortical circuits The human frontal lobes: Functions and disorders 3 New York Guilford Press
Dietrich, K. Succop, P. Berger, O. Hammond, P. 1991 Lead exposure and the cognitive development of urban preschool children: The Cincinnati Lead Study cohort at age 4 years Neurotoxicology and Teratology 13 203
Dingemanse, N.J. Both, C. Drent, P.J. Van Oers, K. Noordwijk, A.J. 2002 Repeatability and heritability of exploratory behaviour in great tits from the wild Animal Behaviour 64 929
Dollinger, S.J. 2007 Creativity and conservatism Personality and Individual Differences 43 1025
Dollinger, S.J. Urban, K.K. James, T.A. 2004 Creativity and openness: Further validation of two creative product measures Creativity Research Journal 16 35
Dunbar, R.I. 1993 Coevolution of neocortical size, group size and language in humans Behavioral and Brain Sciences 16 681
Eisenberger, R. Rhoades, L. 2001 Incremental effects of reward on creativity Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 81 728
Eisenberger, R. Shanock, L. 2003 Rewards, intrinsic motivation, and creativity: A case study of conceptual and methodological isolation Creativity Research Journal 15 121
Ekman, P. 1984 Expression and the nature of emotion K.R. Scherer P. Ekman Approaches to emotion 319 Hillsdale, NJ Erlbaum
Eysenck, H.J. 1982 Personality, genetics and behavior: Selected papers Praeger
Eysenck, H.J. 1990 Biological dimensions of personality L.A. Pervin Handbook of personality: Theory and research 244 New York Guilford
Eysenck, H.J. 1993 Creativity and personality: Suggestions for a theory Psychological Inquiry 4 147
Eysenck, H.J. 1995 Genius: The natural history of creativity New York Cambridge University Press
Feist, G.J. 1998 A meta-analysis of the impact of personality on scientific and artistic creativity Personality and Social Psychological Review 2 290
Feist, G.J. 1999 Personality in scientific and artistic creativity R.J. Sternberg Handbook of human creativity 273 Cambridge, England Cambridge University Press
Feist, G.J. 2006 How development and personality influence scientific thought, interest, and achievement Review of General Psychology 10 163
Feist, G.J. Barron, F. 2003 Predicting creativity from early to late adulthood: Intellect, potential, and personality Journal of Research in Personality 37 62
Feist, G.J. Brady, T. 2004 Openness, non-conformity and the preference for abstract art Empirical Studies of Arts 22 77
Feist, J. Feist, G.J. 2009 Theories of personality New York McGraw-Hill
Fiore, S.M. Schooler, J.W. 1998 Right hemisphere contributions to creative problem solving: Converging evidence for divergent thinking M. Beeman C. Chiarello Right hemisphere language comprehension: Perspectives from cognitive neuroscience Mahwah, NJ Erlbaum
Fisher, J.E. Mohanty, A. Herrington, J.D. Koven, N.S. Miller, G.A. Heller, W. 2004 Neuropsychological evidence for dimensional schizotypy: Implications for creativity and psychopathology Journal of Research in Personality 38 24
Fredrickson, B. 2001 The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions American Psychologist 56 218
Furnham, A. 1999 Personality and creativity Perceptual and Motor Skills 88 407
Fuster, J.M. 2002 Frontal lobe and cognitive development Journal of Neurocytology 31 373
Galin, D. 1974 Implications for psychiatry of left and right cerebral specialization: A neurophysiological context for unconscious processes Archives of General Psychiatry 31 572
Gelade, G. 1997 Creativity in conflict: The personality of the commercial creative Journal of Genetic Psychology 165 67
George, J.M. Zhou, J. 2001 When openness to experience and conscientiousness are related to creative behavior: An interactional approach Journal of Applied Psychology 86 513
Goel, V. Vartanian, O. 2005 Dissociating the roles of right ventral lateral and dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex in generation and maintenance of hypotheses in set-shift problems Cerebral Cortex 15 1170
Gosling, S.D. John, O.P. 1999 Personality dimensions in non-human animals: A cross-species review Current Directions in Psychological Science 8 69
Gräff, J. Mansuy, I. 2008 Epigenetic codes in cognition and behaviour Behavioural Brain Research 192 70
Guilford, J.P. 1950 Creativity American Psychologist 5 444
Harris, J.A. 2004 Measured intelligence, achievement, openness to experience, and creativity Personality and Individual Differences 36 913
Heilman, K.M. Nadeau, S.E. Beversdorf, D.O. 2003 Creative innovation: Possible brain mechanisms Neurocase 9 369
Hennessey, B. 2000 Self-determination theory and the social psychology of creativity Psychological Inquiry 11 293
Hennessey, B. 2003 The social psychology of creativity Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research 47 253
Hill, A. Tan, A. Kikuchi, A. 2008 International high school students’ perceived creativity self-efficacy Korean Journal of Thinking & Problem Solving 18 105
Hubbard, E.M. Ramachandran, V.S. 2005 Neurocognitive mechanisms of synesthesia Neuron 48 509
Isen, A.M. 2000 Positive affect and decision making M. Lewis J.M. Haviland-Jones Handbook of emotions 417 New York Guilford
Jacobson, S. Jacobson, J. 2000 Teratogenic insult and neurobehavioral function in infancy and childhood Mahwah, NJ Erlbaum
Jamison, K.R. 1993 Touched with fire: Manic-depressive illness and the artistic temperament New York Free Press
Jaussi, K. Randel, A. Dionne, S. 2007 I am, I think I can, and I do: The role of personal identity, self-efficacy and cross-application of experiences in creativity at work Creativity Research Journal 19 247
John, O.P. Naumann, L.P. Soto, C.J. 2008 Paradigm shift to the integrative Big Five trait taxonomy O.P. John R.W. Robins L.A. Pervin Personality handbook: Theory and research 114 New York Guilford
Katz, A.N. 1986 The relationship between creativity and cerebral hemisphericity for creative architects, scientists, and mathematicians Empirical Studies of the Arts 4 97
Kaufer, D.I. Lewis, D.A. 1999 Frontal lobe anatomy and cortical connectivity B.L. Miller J.L. Cummings The human frontal lobes: Functions and disorders 27 New York Guilford
Kaufman, J.C. Baer, J. 2004 Hawking's haiku, Madonna's math: Why it is hard to be creative in every room of the house R.J. Sternberg E.L. Grigorenko J.L. Singer Creativity: From potential to realization Washington, DC APA Books
Krasnegor, N.A. Lyon, G.R. Goldman-Rakic, S. 1997 Development of the prefrontal cortex: Evolution, neurobiology, and behavior Baltimore, MD Paul H. Brookes
Krueger, R.F. Johnson, W. 2008 Behavioral genetics and personality: A new look at the integration of nature and nurture O.P. John R.W. Robins L.A. Pervin Personality handbook: Theory and research 287 New York Guilford
Ludwig, A.M. 1995 The price of greatness New York Guilford
Luo, J. Niki, K. 2003 Function of hippocampus in ‘insight’ of problem solving Hippocampus 13 316
MacKinnon, D.W. 1970 Creativity: A multi-faceted phenomenon J. Roslanksy Creativity 19 Amsterdam North-Holland
Martindale, C. 1999 Biological bases of creativity R.J. Sternberg Handbook of creativity 137 Cambridge, UK Cambridge University Press
Martindale, C. 2007 Creativity, primordial cognition, and personality Personality and Individual Differences 43 1777
Martindale, C. Dailey, A. 1996 Creativity: Primary process cognition and personality Personality and Individual Differences 20 409
Martindale, C. Hines, D. Mitchell, L. Covello, E. 1984 EEG alpha asymmetry and creativity Personality and Individual Differences 5 77
Mason, O. Claridge, G. Jackson, M. 1995 New scales for the assessment of schizotypy Personality and Individual Differences 1 7
McCrae, R.R. Costa, P.T., Jr 2008 The five-factor theory of personality O.P. John R.W. Robins L.A. Pervin Personality handbook: Theory and research 159 New York Guilford
Mell, J.C. Howard, S.M. Miller, B.L. 2003 Art and the brain: The influence of frontotemporal dementia on an accomplished artist Neurology 60 1707
Merten, T. Fischer, I. 1999 Creativity, personality, and word association responses: Associative behavior in forty supposedly creative persons Personality and Individual Differences 27 933
Milgram, R. Milgram, N.N. Landau, E. 1974 Identifying gifted children in Israel: A theoretical and empirical research Tel-Aviv Tel-Aviv University
Miller, B.L. Cummings, J.L. 1999 The human frontal lobes: Functions and disorders New York Guilford
Mischel, W. 1968 Personality and assessment New York Wiley
Mithen, S. 1996 The prehistory of the mind: The cognitive origins of art and science London Thames & Hudson
Moffitt, T. Caspi. A. Rutter, M. 2005 Strategy for investigating interactions between measured genes and measured environments Archives of General Psychiatry 62 473
Moneta, G. Siu, C. 2002 Trait intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, academic performance, and creativity in Hong Kong college students Journal of College Student Development 43 664
Morris, P.H. Gale, A. Duffy, K. 2002 Can judges agree on the personality of horses? Personality and Individual Differences 33 67
Nettle, D. 2006 Schizotypy and mental health amongst poets, visual artists, and mathematicians Journal of Research in Personality 40 876
Pascual-Leone, A. 2001 The brain that plays music and is changed by it Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 930 315
Perrine, N. Brodersen, R.M. 2005 Artistic and scientific creative behavior: Openness and the mediating role of interests Journal of Creative Behavior 39 217
Perry, B.D. 2002 Childhood experience and the expression of genetic potential: What childhood neglect tells us about nature and nurture Brain and Mind 3 79
Peterson, B.E. Pang, J.S. 2006 Beyond politics: Authoritarianism and the pursuit of leisure Journal of Social Psychology 146 443
Pickover, C.A. 1998 Strange brains and genius: The lives of eccentric scientists and madmen New York Plenum Trade
Pinker, S. 2002 The blank slate: The modern denial of human nature New York Viking
Prabhu, V. Sutton, C. Sauser, W. 2008 Creativity and certain personality traits: Understanding the mediating effect of intrinsic motivation Creativity Research Journal 20 53
Ptito, M. Desgent, S. 2006 Sensory input-based adaptation and brain architecture P.B. Baltes P.A. Reuter-Lorenz F. Rösler Lifespan development and the brain: The perspective of biocultural co-constructivism 111 New York Cambridge University Press
Radeau, M. Colin, C. 2004 On ventriloquism, audiovisual neurons, neonates, and the senses Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27 889
Ramachandran, V.S. Hubbard, E.M. 2003 Hearing colors, tasting shapes Scientific American 288 52
Rank, O. 1989 Art and artist: Creative urge and personality development New York Knopf. (Original work published 1932
Rauch, A. Frese, M. 2007 Let's put the person back into entrepreneurship research: A meta-analysis on the relationship between business owners’ personality traits, business creation, and success European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology 16 353
Rawlings, D. Locarnini, A. 2008 Dimensional schizotypy, autism, and unusual word associations in artists and scientists Journal of Research in Personality 42 465
Reuter, M. Panksepp, J. Schnabel, N. Kellerhoff, N. Kempel, P. Hennig, J. 2005 Personality and biological markers of creativity European Journal of Personality 19 83
Roberts, B.W. Mroczek, D. 2008 Personality trait change in adulthood Current Directions in Psychological Science 17 31
Rolls, E.T. 2000 The orbitofrontal cortex and reward Cerebral Cortex 10 284
Rosenberg, E.L. 1998 Levels of analysis and the organization of affect Review of General Psychology 2 247
Ross, L. Nisbett, R.E. 1991 The person and the situation: Perspectives of social psychology New York McGraw-Hill
Rubinstein, G. 2003 Authoritarianism and its relation to creativity: A comparative study among students of design, behavioral sciences and law Personality and Individual Differences 34 695
Ruff, H. 1999 Population-based data and the development of individual children: The case of low to moderate lead levels and intelligence Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics 20 42
Runco, M. 2004 Everyone has creative potential R.J. Sternberg E.L. Grigorenko J.L. Singer Creativity: From potential to realization 21 Washington, DC APA Books
Rutter, M. 2006 Genes and behavior: Nature-nurture interplay explained Malden, MA Blackwell
Schneider, F. Gur, R. Alavi, A. Seligman, M. Mozley, L. Smith, R., et al 1996 Cerebral blood flow changes in limbic regions induced by unsolvable anagram tasks American Journal of Psychiatry 153 206
Schuldberg, D. 2005 Eysenck Personality Questionnaire scales and paper-and-pencil tests related to creativity Psychological Reports 97 180
Shalley, C.E. Gilson, L.L. 2004 What leaders need to know: A review of social and contextual factors that can foster or hinder creativity? The Leadership Quarterly 15 33
Simonton, D. 2008 Scientific talent, training, and performance: Intellect, personality, and genetic endowment Review of General Psychology 12 28
Soldz, S. Vaillant, G. E. 1999 The big five personality traits and the life course: A 45 year longitudinal study Journal of Research in Personality 33 208
Stavridou, A. Furnham, A. 1996 The relationship between psychoticism, trait-creativity, and the attentional mechanism of cognitive inhibition Personality and Individual Differences 21 143
Steinhausen, H. Spohr, H. 1998 Long-term outcome of children with fetal alcohol syndrome: Psychopathology, behavior, and intelligence Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 22 334
Sternberg, R.J. 1988 A three-facet model of creativity R.J. Sternberg The nature of creativity Cambridge, England Cambridge University Press
Stone, V.E. Baron-Cohen, S. Knight, R.T. 1998 Frontal lobe contributions to theory of mind Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 10 640
Streissguth, A. Barr, H. Sampson, P. Darby, B. Martin, D. 1989 IQ at age 4 in relation to maternal alcohol use and smoking during pregnancy Developmental Psychology 25 3
Stuss, D.T. Picton, T.W. Alexander, M.P. 2001 Consciousness and self-awareness, and the frontal lobes S.P. Salloway P.F. Malloy J.D. Duffy The frontal lobes and neuropsychiatric illness 101 Washington, DC American Psychiatric Publishing
Tierney, P. Farmer, S.M. 2002 Creative self-efficacy: Its potential antecedents and relationship to creative performance Academy of Management Journal 45 1137
Vartanian, O. Goel, V. 2007 Neural correlates of creative cognition C. Martindale P. Locher V.M. Petrov Evolutionary and neurocognitive approaches to aesthetics, creativity and the arts 195 Amityville, NY Baywood
Watters, E. 2006 http://discovermagazine.com/2006/nov/cover
Weinstein, S. Graves, R.E. 2001 Creativity, schizotypy, and laterality Cognitive Neuropsychiatry 6 131
Weinstein, S. Graves, R.E. 2002 Are creativity and schizotypy products of a right hemisphere bias Brain and Cognition 49 138
Wolfradt, U. Pretz, J. 2001 Individual differences in creativity: Personality, story writing, and hobbies European Journal of Personality 15 297
Wutrich, V. Bates, T.C. 2001 Schizotypy and latent inhibition: Nonlinear linkage between psychometric and cognitive markers Personality and Individual Differences 30 783