Is psychopathology elevated in Big-C visual artists and scientists?

The idea that psychopathology is associated with exceptional creativity has persisted despite a paucity of corroborating or disconfirming evidence. The authors measured psychopathology, including schizotypal personality traits, social responsiveness/autism spectrum traits, and lifetime incidence of mental disorders, along with lab-based tests of creativity in a unique sample of Big-C (exceptionally creative) individuals. The authors examined Big-C visual artists (VIS; n = 35), Big-C scientists (SCI; n = 41), and a smart comparison group (SCG; n = 31) matched on age, sex, race/ethnicity, parental education, and estimated IQ. Neither lifetime nor current prevalence of mental disorders was higher in Big-C groups relative to either the SCG or epidemiologic estimates, but individuals without a lifetime history of psychiatric disorder scored higher on a test of creative cognition relative to those who had at least one lifetime diagnosis. The groups differed in self-reported symptoms: VIS reported more schizotypal features than both SCI and SCG, and higher levels of socially divergent traits than SCI. Self-reported symptoms were below diagnostic thresholds in all 3 groups. The findings indicate that neither exceptional creativity nor performance on tests that putatively assess creativity are associated with mental illness but suggest that certain schizotypal features and socially divergent traits–at subclinical levels–are associated with Big-C achievement, at least in visual artists. The findings further raise questions about the sensitivity of laboratory tests for Big-C cognition. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)