Creativity Anxiety: Evidence for Anxiety That Is Specific to Creative Thinking, From STEM to the Arts

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Creative thinking drives progress not only in the arts but also, and perhaps especially, in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and it is expected to become even more valuable than technical skill as artificial intelligence outpaces human cognition. Fostering creative thinkers has become a primary focus of educators. Educationally relevant anxieties, like math anxiety, have been shown to substantially impact specific forms of achievement and engagement, both in school and in career pursuits. Identifying these anxieties has led to promising interventions to enable affected individuals to reach their potential. Somewhat surprisingly, however, the possibility of anxiety specific to creative thinking is, to our knowledge, unexplored. In this article, across multiple samples, we tested the viability of creativity anxiety as a construct. We first created a new measure, the Creativity Anxiety Scale (CAS), demonstrating validity, internal reliability, and specificity. Applying the CAS revealed that creativity-specific anxiety predicted individual differences in creative achievement and attitudes toward creativity over and above effects of general anxiety. Moreover, across diverse content domains, from science to arts, anxiety was greater for situations that required creativity than similar situations that did not. Notably, this effect was especially pronounced in women. These findings suggest that creativity anxiety may have wide-reaching impacts and distinguish creativity anxiety from anxiety about noncreative aspects of performance. Establishing creativity anxiety as a novel construct, and the CAS as a valid measurement instrument, opens a new avenue of research that promises to deepen basic understanding of creative cognition and inform development of interventions to enable greater achievement of creative potential.

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