The life and death of creativity: The effects of mortality salience on self versus social-directed creative expression

Abstract

Research in terror management theory suggests that our connections to others function, in part, to provide protection from the anxiety associated with the awareness of inevitable death. The individuating nature of creative expression can potentially undermine these connections, making creativity particularly problematic when one is dealing with mortality concerns. Consistent with this, a number of findings have elucidated emotional consequences associated with creativity when mortality concerns are active. However, to date, research has not focused on how mortality awareness may impact levels of creativity. The present study assessed the hypothesis that mortality concerns will inhibit creative behavior that threatens social connections but will not undermine and may even facilitate creative behavior that bolsters social connections. The results showed that amplified concerns about mortality decreased creativity when the act was self-directed but not when it was community-directed. Theoretical implications and future directions are discussed.

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Correspondence to Clay Routledge.

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Routledge, C., Arndt, J., Vess, M. et al. The life and death of creativity: The effects of mortality salience on self versus social-directed creative expression. Motiv Emot 32, 331–338 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-008-9108-y

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Keywords

  • Terror management
  • Creativity
  • Social connectedness
  • Individuation