Summary: A new study reveals that magicians are less likely to face mental health challenges than other creative individuals such as musicians and comedians. Although creativity is often associated with mental health problems, this research challenges that notion.
The study measured the psychological traits of 195 magicians and found that they scored lower on key indicators of psychosis, making them unique among creative groups. The mental health profiles of magicians are most similar to those of mathematicians and scientists, shedding light on the complex relationship between creativity and mental disorders.
- Magicians, unlike many other creative groups, show lower psychotic trait scores, indicating a lower likelihood of mental disorders.
- The precision and high stakes of magical performances contribute to the unique characteristics of magicians in terms of their mental health.
- Magicians excel in creating and performing their own magic tricks, which sets them apart from other creative professions.
source: Aberystwyth University
Magicians are less likely to suffer from the mental health challenges faced by other creative people such as musicians and comedians, according to a new study.
From comedians like Robin Williams to poets and artists like Sylvia Plath and Van Gogh, many famous names have had well-publicized mental disorders. Although not fully understood, there is growing evidence of a link between these health challenges and creativity.
New research led by Aberystwyth University and published in the journal BJPsych Open, shows that by some key measures wizards are clearly an exception to this trend.
The study measured the psychological traits of 195 magicians and 233 people from the general population and compared them with data from other creative groups.
The academics’ work shows that on three key indicators of psychosis, or degrees of loss of contact with reality, magicians are significantly less likely to suffer than entertainers, musicians and comedians.
Magicians were less likely than all other creatives to have unusual experiences, such as hallucinations or cognitive disorganization, which could make it difficult to concentrate.
Indeed, by many measures wizards seem less prone to these conditions than the general population. Their mental profiles are most similar to those of mathematicians and scientists.
Dr Gill Greengross from the Department of Psychology at Aberystwyth University commented:
“There is a common belief that many creative people have mental illnesses and that these illnesses make them more creative. This is the first study to show a creative group with lower psychotic trait scores than the general population.
“Our research shows that members of at least one creative group, magicians, do not exhibit higher levels of mental disorders.
“The results show that the relationship between creativity and psychopathology is more complex than previously thought, and different types of creative work may be associated with high or low psychoticism or autistic traits.”
“The study highlights the unique characteristics of magicians and the possible myriad links between creativity and mental disorders among creative groups. One thing that sets magicians apart from most other performers is the precision required in their performances.
“So compared to other contractors, it’s harder to overcome mistakes. Magic tricks are largely all-or-nothing acts that culminate in an “aha” moment of surprise and awe. Failed magic tricks leave a bigger impact than unfunny pranks and are harder to make up for because they are few and far between.
“So, in addition to requiring high technical skill regardless of the type of magic performed, the high stakes of magical performance make magicians a unique creative group to study among all artistic professions.”
Dr Greengross, from Aberystwyth University, added:
“What distinguishes magicians from most other creative people is that they not only create their own magic tricks, but also perform them, whereas most creative groups are either creators or performers.
“For example, poets, writers, composers and choreographers create something to be consumed or performed by others. In contrast, actors, musicians and dancers perform and interpret the work of others. Magicians, like comedians and singer-songwriters, are one of the rare groups that do both.
“Wizards score low on impulsive nonconformity, a trait that is associated with antisocial behavior and lower self-control. These traits are valuable to many creative groups such as writers, poets, and comedians, whose creative acts are often edgy and challenge conventional wisdom.
“Magicians can also be equally innovative and push the boundaries of what is considered possible in magic, such as David Copperfield’s famous flying illusion.”
“However, many magicians perform familiar tricks or some variation of them without feeling the need for innovation.”
About this creativity and mental health research news
Author: Colin Noseworthy
source: Aberystwyth University
Contact: Colin Noseworthy – Aberystwyth University
Image: Image credited to Neuroscience News
Original research: Free access.
“Psychotic and Autistic Traits Among Magicians and Their Relationship to Creative Beliefs” by Gil Greengross et al. BJ Psych Open
Psychotic and autistic traits among magicians and their relation to creative beliefs
There is a common belief that creativity is related to psychopathology. Previous studies have shown that members of creative groups such as comedians, artists, and scientists score higher than the norm on psychotic traits, and scientists in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields score high on autistic traits.
To test whether magicians, a previously unstudied creative group, also score high on psychopathological traits and autism, and to test the associations of creative self-efficacy and creative identity with schizotypal and autistic traits among magicians.
A sample of 195 magicians and 233 people from the general population completed measures of schizotypal traits (Oxford-Liverpool Inventory of Feelings and Experiences) and autism (short version of the Autism Spectrum Quotient) as well as the Creative Self Short Scale. Magicians were also compared with other creative groups in terms of schizotypal traits, based on previously published data.
Wizards scored lower than the general population sample on three of the four schizophrenia measures (cognitive disorganization, introverted anhedonia, and impulsive nonconformity), but did not differ on unusual experiences or autism scores. Wizards scored higher on creative self-efficacy and creative personal identity than the general sample. Magicians’ scores for schizotypal traits were significantly lower than those of other creative groups. Originality of magic is positively related to unusual experiences (r = 0.208), creative self-efficacy (r = 0.251) and creative identity (r = 0.362).
This is the first study to show a creative group with lower than norm scores on psychotic traits. The results highlight the unique characteristics of magicians and the possible myriad links between creativity and mental disorders among creative groups.