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COVID-19 took us by surprise, and the exceptional situation of the first closure required great opportunities for adaptation, particularly for our brains. A study conducted at the Paris Institute of the Brain (Inserm / CNRS / University of the Sorbonne / AP-HP) has just shown how our work has evolved during these periods and the factors that may have influenced it. Despite the blockade, our creativity has increased and focused on activities related mainly to the problems of the situation.

Creativity is one of the cognitive functions that allows us to be flexible in new conditions and find solutions in new situations. The unusual conditions of the first containment of the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to reconsider our habits, impose new restrictions and force us to adapt; in a word, be creative.

A team of researchers from Frontlab Paris Brain Institute conducted an online survey to assess the impact of blocking on creativityusing a two-part questionnaire. The first part consisted of questions aimed at understanding the situation in which the participants found themselves in March-April 2020 (Were you restricted alone or with others? Did you have more work or free time than before?); their mental state at this time (Did you feel more motivated? Did you feel a decrease or increase in mood or stress?); and finally, whether they felt more or less creative than before. The second part asked participants about the creative activities that took place during the imprisonment, their frequency, area, degree of their success and valorization, as well as the reasons that motivated or hindered this activity. The researchers collected nearly 400 analyzed responses.

Stressed but more creative

“Our first observation was that blocking was psychologically unpleasant for most participants, as other studies showed, but on average they felt more creative,” says Theophile Beat (AP-HP), one of the study’s authors. “By shredding these two pieces of information, we showed that the better people felt, the more creative they thought.”

In contrast, when researchers asked about the number of obstacles respondents encountered, they observed a nonlinear relationship. Regardless of whether the changes in creativity were positive or negative, the participants felt that they faced many obstacles. Indeed, many people faced obstacles in their normal activities that forced them to be creative to reach them, and conversely, some people felt that they were not creative because they faced too many challenges to be creative.

More creative activities related to the problems of the situation

The second part of the questionnaire consisted of a list of 30 different activities, most of which are part of the international standards used in the study of creativity (Inventory Creativty Activities and Achievements). These included cooking, painting, sewing, gardening, decorating and music. Participants were asked whether they had been involved in these activities over the past five years, whether their practice had increased during the blockade, why and how often, and if not, why it had decreased.

“In this section, the questionnaires tried to more objectively measure quantitative and qualitative changes in creative behavior, while the first part was based on a subjective report of the situation,” explains Emanuel Vole (Inserm), the latest author of the study. “Our results show that this measure of creative behavior corresponds to the rate of subjective change reported by subjects. In both cases, the observed changes were related to leisure and emotional feelings.”

The five activities that have increased the most during the closure are cooking, sports and dance programs, self-help initiatives and gardening. On average, among the 28 activities surveyed, which also included, for example, interior design, sewing, creation or redirection of facilities, about 40% of those who were already engaged five years before imprisonment increased their practice.

A positive relationship between mood and creativity

The results of this study highlight the overall growth of creativity during the first quarantine. This positive change may be due to more free time, a sense of more motivation, the need to solve a problem or the need to adapt to a new situation. However, when negative changes in creativity occurred, they were associated with negative emotions such as stress or anxiety, feelings of pressure, or lack of material resources or opportunities.

The relationship between positive mood and creativity is quite controversial. “There is evidence in the scientific literature that creativity needs to feel good, while other evidence points to the other side. It is also unknown in which direction this process is going: do we feel good because we are creative or creativity makes us happier? ” Alise Lopez-Persem (Inserm), one of the authors of the study, concludes: “One of our analyzes shows that creative expression has allowed people to better manage their negative emotions related to imprisonment, and thus feel better in this is a difficult period. ”

How our knowledge of the world, laid down in connection with the brain, shapes our creativity

Additional information:
Through the Thick and the Thin: Changes in Creativity during the First Blockade of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Limits in psychology (2022). DOI: 10.3389 / fpsyg.2022.821550

Courtesy of Institut du Cerveau (Paris Brain Institute)

Citation: How the first blockade of the COVID-19 pandemic changed our work (2022, May 10) obtained May 10, 2022 from

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