Roads More and Less Traveled: Different Emotional Routes to Creativity Among Protestants and Catholics

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Western culture has 2 contradictory images of creativity: the artist as intensely emotional versus the artist as sublimator, for whom work becomes the outlet for what is repressed and denied. We show that both images are correct, but that the routes to creativity are culturally patterned, such that Catholic creatives are relatively more likely to take the emotionally intense route and Protestant creatives relatively more likely to take the sublimating route. This pattern is consistent for both the Big-C creativity of historical eminents (Studies 1 and 1b) and small-c creativity of student samples (Studies 2 and 3). The student samples also highlighted the moderating role of Protestant asceticism, as Protestants who were high in asceticism and who also repressed or minimized troublesome emotions were particularly creative. Analyses of behavioral data in previous lab experiments (Studies 2b and 3b) provided conceptual validation of the findings reported in Studies 2 and 3.

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