Creativity Anxiety: An Investigation of Anxiety Specific to Creative Thinking and Its Implications for Creative Performance and Avoidance of Creativity
Creativity is a necessary component of any society that seeks to continuously improve. It is crucial, then, to identify and understand potential barriers to creativity if we wish to optimally support human flourishing. This dissertation identifies a new potential barrier to creative achievement – creativity anxiety, or anxiety specific to creative thinking – and aims to understand its consequences. Study 1 conceptualizes this new cognition-specific anxiety and presents the development of a tool to measure it – the Creativity Anxiety Scale (CAS). Findings suggest that anxiety toward situations that involve thinking creatively is separable from (and, on average, greater than) anxiety toward similar situations that do not involve thinking creatively, both in the abstract and within a variety of different domains from arts and music to science and math. Moreover, creativity anxiety was found to be negatively predictive of the extent of real-world creative achievement individuals reported. Study 2 investigated associations between creativity anxiety and various forms of creative performance. Findings showed that creativity anxiety is predictive of some types of creative performance (e.g., the amount of unique ideas people are able to generate), but not others. However, results also showed that those higher in creativity anxiety tend to report higher levels of state anxiety and effort associated with creative performance, suggesting that while their baseline levels of creative performance may not suffer, this performance may be more fragile to external sources of stress or cognitive load for those who are anxious about creative thinking. Study 3 asked whether creativity anxiety and other cognition-specific anxieties (math anxiety and spatial anxiety) are linked to avoidance of pursuits that are perceived as involving the type of thinking that is the target of the anxiety. Results indicated that for those high in creativity anxiety, the more they perceived pursuits as involving creative thinking, the less interested in them they were – the analogous finding held for all domains investigated. Together, this dissertation lays the groundwork for a new literature on creativity anxiety that, if explored, could enable the development of techniques to remove this barrier to creativity and better allow people to fulfill their creative potential.
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