evolutionary significance of emotions !!

Nick Medford nick at hermit0.demon.co.uk
Wed Mar 1 15:30:47 EST 2000

In article <89iram$31$1 at pump1.york.ac.uk>, Pam Blundell
<pjw106 at york.ac.uk> writes
>I'm afraid that is a very poor argument.  You need to compare the percentage
>of people who are depressed, and creative, with the percentage of people who
>are 'normal' and creative.  I don't know if this has been done, but I would
>expect that you will not find any difference.  You also need to compare the
>number of depressives who are creative with those who are not.  *Most*
>depressed people are not especially creative. 

I would agree, but there is undoubtedly a subset of people for whom there
DOES seem to be some trade-off between psychological distress and
creativity. I have met a number of such individuals in clinical practice. Of
course these do not constitute the majority of people with depression, any
more than most people with psychoses are possessed of profound mystical
insights (another popular myth about mental illness).

> They are normal individuals
>with a devastating disorder.  Depression, as I said before, is an incredibly
>debiliating condition, and often leaves people incapable of even leaving the
>house, let alone having the motivation to do something like write or paint.

However in the recovery phase motivation and energy often improve before
mood lifts, so there may well be a phase where the motivation is present in
tandem with the misery.
>It is often said that left handed people are more creative, but a
>statistical study was carried out by John Aggleton, comparing occurance of
>lefthandedness amoung musicians and a 'normal' control group (cricketers),
>and he found no difference.  This is an example where a commonly held belief
>about creative people is actually wrong, and I would expect the same to be
>found for the creative-depression link.

Hmm.. not wishing to cast aspersions on the study, which I haven't read
(could you post a reference?), but being left-handed is definitely an
advantage when playing cricket. Because most people are right-handed, left-
handed batsmen are more difficult to bowl at (the bowler has to bowl a
different line from normal), and for the same reason left-handed bowlers are
more difficult to face. So maybe they are over-represented amongst
cricketers?! (probably not, just like to play Devil's advocate). 

Re. DSM, which was mentioned earlier in this thread: many European
psychiatrists are unhappy with it. It contains new disorders each time it is
revised, and the diagnostic categories stretch credulity at times. The ICD
remains the official standard text in Europe. Both are flawed and ultimately
it's a question of taste which you prefer. But DSM is certainly no bible!
(Well, maybe it is- the Bible is often contradictory and unreliable too...)

Nick Medford

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