What drives creativity? Researchers have been asking this question for a long time. While we know that different psychological mechanisms can make us more creative, a new study claims that the pandemic forced us to rethink our habits and adapt -- in other words, to be creative.
The unusual circumstances of the first Covid-19 lockdown led us to demonstrate great adaptability. A group of researchers from the Frontlab at the Paris Brain Institute looked at this phenomenon to see if this unusual situation had an impact on our creative potential.
They created a two-part questionnaire: the first included questions aimed at understanding where the study participants were in March-April 2020 and whether they felt more or less creative during that time, while the second focused on the creative activities they engaged in during that lockdown. They collected nearly 400 usable responses.
The scientists found that the lockdown was psychologically taxing for most of the respondents. Other studies have previously highlighted this worrying finding. Researchers at the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, for example, have previously claimed that one in three adults worldwide suffers from psychological distress related to Covid-19. The pandemic, they say, has particularly impacted the mental well-being of women, young adults, and those considered to have the lowest socio-economic status.
While lockdown and the various Covid-19 restrictions may have been detrimental to our mental health, they appear to have had a much more beneficial effect on our creativity. Many participants in the Paris Brain Institute study reported feeling more creative during these troubled times. This positive change may be related to the fact that they found themselves with more free time, felt more motivated during lockdown, or felt the need to adapt to a new situation or solve a problem. These are all psychological factors that can stimulate and foster creativity.
But how was this creativity expressed during the initial lockdown? The research team observed that many of us turned to cooking , sports and dance programs, self-help initiatives and gardening during those long weeks of isolation. But that's not all: study participants who were already engaged in creative activities before the pandemic saw their practice increase, by 40% on average, during this period.
However, all was not plain sailing. Respondents felt that they had encountered many obstacles in their daily lives, which caused some of them to be inventive in going about their usual activities. On the contrary, others faced too many problems to feel creative during this time. "There is some evidence in the scientific literature that you need to feel good to be creative, while other evidence points the other way. Also, it is not known in which direction this process takes place: do we feel good because we are creative or does being creative make us happier?" posits Alizée Lopez-Persem (Inserm), co-first author of the study . "Here, one of our analyses suggests that creative expression enabled individuals to better manage their negative emotions linked to confinement and therefore to feel better during this difficult period."
If the first lockdown may have boosted our creativity, many researchers still wonder about this quality, which seems to come more easily to some than to others. This is the case of Jules Zimmermann , who explores the creative process in a book titled "La Baignoire d'Archimède," (Archimedes' Bathtub), published by Editions Arké in 2021. "The idea that everyone is creative, from the artist to the entrepreneur, is one that is very popular. I'm quite opposed to the discourse that we are all creative geniuses with a huge potential hidden inside us. We can all develop our creativity. This does not mean that we are all destined to be creative geniuses. This is an opportunity to eliminate the powerful notion that it's necessary to be 'successful' even in our leisure activities. I find this idea that as modern human beings we should fulfill ourselves by creating, by inventing things quite terrible," the author told ETX Daily Up. And that may come as a relief to some.