A new study,Creativity Anxiety: Evidence for Anxiety Specific to Creative Thinking from STEM to the Arts,” by a research team at Georgetown University provides the first evidence of a form of anxiety that is specific to thinking creatively and points to ways that this kind of anxiety may limit an individual’s creative potential.

The researchers asked college students and a large group of online respondents to rate how anxious they would feel in various hypothetical situations that would require them to think creatively or non-creatively. This allowed researchers to distinguish anxiety about thinking creatively from anxiety about thinking more precisely.

“We suspected there might be something specific about having to generate something new and creative that causes anxiety for lots of people, and that’s what these new findings tell us — that creativity really is special when it comes to anxiety,” according to assisting researcher and Professor Ian Lyons.

Prior research has shown that the ability to think creatively is a consistent predictor of academic achievement.

According to a release, Georgetown Professor Adam Green stated that factors that keep people from realizing their creative potential “are likely to have substantial impacts on achievement and opportunity now and in the future.”

The release added that the research “has further implications for better understanding the gender disparity in the emerging technology industry, where competition for new ideas is fierce and creative thinking is highly valued.

“The study found that differences in creativity anxiety predicted differences in real-world creative achievement. The experience of creativity anxiety, relative to anxiety in non-creative situations, was higher in women than in men.”

“We saw a consistent pattern of results not only for the typical creative areas like the arts, but also for areas like math and science that people don’t often think of as being creative — even though they really are,” Professor Lyons said.

(Matt Smith, who authors the “Oh, That’s Good” column for Capitol Communicator, penned a post on this subject earlier this year which you can find here.)

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