Can induced mood change people’s level of creativity?

A study by Sue Langley.

In the keynote address at the Third World Congress in Positive Psychology in June 2013, Martin Seligman pointed to creativity as the next most important area in positive psychology.

Creativity is vital in business to generate innovation that will lead to competitive advantage, and leaders are under increasing pressure to deliver creative solutions under stress. Organisations require employees to solve problems every day, from small tasks that require accessing information or solutions that have been encountered, to much more complex problems that require deeper levels of creative insight and emotional intelligence. Employee moods and emotions influence several critical elements in organisations, from creativity to job performance, collaboration and decision-making. As positive moods are known to facilitate creative thinking, understanding more about the impact of positive emotions on creativity and how to increase these in employees can individuals, organisations and teams leverage creative potential.

Sue Langley’s research investigated whether induced mood can change people’s level of creativity, and if induced positive moods lead to higher creative output than negative moods. Finding that positive moods seem beneficial for creative output, both quantity and quality, Sue’s study highlights the practical applications of positive psychology to learning, innovation and creative thinking in the classroom and workplace.

Summary Report
Research Report

This research is part of a series of ongoing studies that bring together elements of positive psychology and neuroscience to explore creative potential and development, was conducted by Sue Langley of the Langley Group and Emotional Intelligence Worldwide, in association with the Professional Development Foundation at Middlesex University. Findings were presented at the 7th European Conference on Positive Psychology, 2nd Canadian Conference on Positive Psychology, 4th Australian Positive Psychology and Wellbeing Conference and 3rd World Congress on Positive Psychology.

Langley, S. (2014). The impact of emotions on creativity. Research presentation at the 7th European Conference on Positive Psychology, Amsterdam, July.

Langley, S. (2014). The impact of emotions on creativity. Research presentation at the 2nd Canadian Conference on Positive Psychology, Ottawa, July.

Langley, S. (2013). The impact of emotions on creativity. Poster presentation at 3rd World Congress on Positive Psychology, Los Angeles, June.

Langley, S. (2013). The impact of emotions on creativity. Research report, Emotional Intelligence Worldwide, February.

Creativity is increasingly vital to competitive advantage, and leaders are under growing pressure to generate creative output from themselves and their teams. Positive moods are beneficial for big picture, creative, innovative thinking (Fredrickson, 2001; Subramaniam et al., 2009). Negative moods create more accuracy, bottoms up neural processing and problem finding (Forgas & Wyland, 2006). This research investigates if induced positive moods lead to higher creative output than negative moods. An online experiment aimed to induce either positive or negative mood through video clips before participants undertook a creative task. Personality dimensions were also measured to assess how preferences in information processing impacted creative output. This study demonstrated efficacy of induced mood and concludes that positive moods seem beneficial for creative output, both quantity and quality. Higher levels of intuition also appear associated with higher creativity quality and higher levels of sensing with lower creative output. The findings add to the considerable data on the impact of emotions on workplace performance (Amabile et al., 2005). Results have informed the design of learning, innovation and creative thinking interventions in the classroom and workplace. This research is part of a series of studies linking emotional intelligence with positive psychology and neuroscience, including the impact that neuroscience training and emotional state can have on creative output and insight over time. Ongoing studies in this area promise rich insights for researchers and organisations seeking to optimise creative output and performance of employees.

Key words: emotion, mood, creativity, performance, workplace.

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