Given that the entire book is devoted to creativity and mental illness, we view this chapter as a chance to highlight key work on the topic and raise some of the questions that will be addressed later in these pages. The historical antecedents of the debate have already been discussed (Becker, this volume), and the previous chapter highlighted the extensive historiometric studies conducted on this topic. Here, therefore, we will primarily focus on empirical research. Many of the studies discussed here are by scholars who have also contributed to this volume; similarly, other chapters have covered specific topics in great detail. We will only briefly allude to this work and instead send interested readers to the relevant parts of this book.
Conceptions of creativity
The connection between creativity and mental illness has been widely debated, both in creativity research and across many other disciplines. One of the biggest sources of variability and conflicting results is the problem of definitions: What exactly do we mean by creativity? Standard definitions of creativity often specify novelty and task-appropriateness (Amabile, 1996; Barron, 1955). Some also include a third concept, such as whether something is surprising (Simonton, 2013) or of high quality (Sternberg et al., 2003). Yet such broad conceptions invariably raise more questions than they answer. In order to interpret empirical results cohesively, there must be a way in which studies of creativity and mental illness define creativity. Certainly, such studies do not consistently highlight how they operationally define creativity (similar to most papers on creativity; see Plucker et al., 2004). Beyond definitions, there are many theories on how to measure creativity, from divergent thinking to remote associations to consensual assessment (Kaufman et al., 2012). Countless further dimensions may be derived from these measures, such as fluency, flexibility, unusual responses, originality, novelty, functionality, aesthetics, or remoteness of associations.