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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Is Genius Mad?

APA One of the long-standing debates in discussions relating to psychopathology, clinical psychology, developmental psychology, and creativity surrounds the relationship between mental illness and creativity. Indeed, there is some connection but to what extent are they related? Is there a typical psychological makeup or certain diagnoses to which this link is most prominent? Which comes first: madness or genius? Does one cause the other? One individual that has forged ahead in examining these issues over the decades is creativity researcher and luminary Dean Keith Simonton. In his review of two documentary films that offer some insight on these issues, Between Madness and Art: The Prinzhorn Collection and Hidden Gifts: The Mystery of Angus MacPhee, Simonton begins the exploration with some questions of his own: "First, is genius born or made? Second, does a high IQ a genius make? And third, is genius mad?"

How would you respond to these questions? What research supports your perspective? Do you have any clinical case examples that support your views?

Read the Review
ReviewHow Thin Is the Partition? Where Does It Reside?
By Dean Keith Simonton
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2009 Vol 54(26)


Judith Schlesinger, PhD

This ancient question becomes especially timely for me since the latest issue of PACA (May) includes my article, "Creative Mythconceptions: A closer look at the evidence for the mad genius hypothesis" (Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 62-72). This is a long-overdue critical analysis of the studies and books that are most commonly cited as empirical evidence for a creativity/bipolar link. But this "evidence" is so wobbly that it suggests people have been referencing this literature for decades without reading the originals carefully - or perhaps at all!

Douglas Eby

In her article Creativity, the Arts, and Madness, Maureen Neihart, Psy.D. comments, "The notion that inspiration requires regression and dipping into irrationality in order to access unconscious symbols and thought has been popular across disciplines for hundreds of years."

She asks, "If there is a significant correlation between creative genius and mental disorders, how do we explain it?"

Judith Schlesinger

The first order of business is to ensure that we're all talking about the same thing when we refer to such variables as "creative genius" and "mental disorders." Despite decades of research into this question, there is still no consensus about their definition and measurement - nor is it likely that there ever will be. This makes it impossible to establish any relationship between these things, whether it's correlational or something more advanced and elaborate.

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Editor of PsycCRITIQUES

Danny Wedding, PhD

Chair of Behavioral Sciences,
College of Medicine,
American University of Antigua

Associate Editors of PsycCRITIQUES

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