Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Psychology

First Advisor

Martin E. Seligman

Abstract

Past research suggests that creative thinking and behavior, defined as the generation of ideas or products that are both original and valuable, may enhance well-being. The present studies aimed to further investigate when, how, and for whom creativity predicts well-being. First, this research assessed whether creativity predicted well-being in a number of contexts and domains, as past scholarship in this area has mainly focused on the arts. Second, this research examined a number of mechanisms that may account for the benefits of creativity. Third, this research investigated whether individual differences in personality and motivation predict the extent to which individuals engage in creative behavior, and the extent to which creative behavior is associated with positive outcomes. Chapter 1 showed that experiences of adversity predicted perceptions of increased creativity in a sample of adults. This relationship was mediated by reports of posttraumatic growth. In addition, the personality trait of openness to experience moderated the extent to which experiences of adversity predicted perceptions of increased creativity. Chapter 2 showed that retrospective reports of extracurricular involvement during high school predicted higher levels of psychological adjustment at the beginning of college in a sample of emerging adults. This relationship was mediated by feelings of mastery and creative self-efficacy associated with extracurricular activities. In addition, feelings of creative self-efficacy predicted higher levels of creative achievement. Chapter 3, Study 1, provided an in-depth qualitative analysis of the motivations and processes driving the work of a sample of professional artists and scientists. Chapter 3, Study 2, found that these could be reduced to three main types of motivations (prosocial, intellectual, and emotional) and one process (the degree to which creators think about others during their work - i.e., their sense of audience). In a sample of aspiring artists and scientists, prosocial and intellectual motivations predicted higher levels of well-being, and this relationship was explained by a greater sense of audience and self-efficacy. Overall, results of the present studies suggested that creative behavior may enhance well-being through both general and creativity-specific mechanisms, and important individual differences may determine the extent to which creative behavior is beneficial.

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