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Emotion. 2014 Oct;14(5):846-56. doi: 10.1037/a0036965. Epub 2014 May 26.

The role of instrumental emotion regulation in the emotions-creativity link: how worries render individuals with high neuroticism more creative.

Author information

School of Social Sciences, Singapore Management University.
Institute of Creative Industries Design, National Cheng Kung University.
Division of Psychology, Nanyang Technological University.
Sun Yat-Sen Business School, Sun Yat-Sen University.
Division of Strategy, Management, and Organization, Nanyang Technological University.


Based on the instrumental account of emotion regulation (Tamir, 2005), the current research seeks to offer a novel perspective to the emotions-creativity debate by investigating the instrumental value of trait-consistent emotions in creativity. We hypothesize that emotions such as worry (vs. happy) are trait-consistent experiences for individuals higher on trait neuroticism and experiencing these emotions can facilitate performance in a creativity task. In 3 studies, we found support for our hypothesis. First, individuals higher in neuroticism had a greater preference for recalling worrisome (vs. happy) events in anticipation of performing a creativity task (Study 1). Moreover, when induced to recall a worrisome (vs. happy) event, individuals higher in neuroticism came up with more creative design (Study 2) and more flexible uses of a brick (Study 3) when the task was a cognitively demanding one. Further, Study 3 offers preliminary support that increased intrinsic task enjoyment and motivation mediates the relationship between trait-consistent emotion regulation and creative performance. These findings offer a new perspective to the controversy concerning the emotions-creativity relationship and further demonstrate the role of instrumental emotion regulation in the domain of creative performance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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