There's a major downside to the creative impulse: negativity.

In a process they refer to as an 'affective shift,' the authors of a recent study argue that creativity is influenced by the dynamic interplay of positive and negative affect. A new idea may result when a phase of negative thinking and feeling, followed by a state of highly positive feeling and thinking.

"My co-authors and I compare it to the wonder of the phoenix, the mythological creature that burns to ashes but then resurrects from those ashes to become a beautiful bird," said Professor Ronald Bledow, Ghent University
Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences.

Researchers believe that negative thinking draws attention to problems and signals that an effort needs to be invested in order to solve those problems. This helps to cultivate a more thorough and objective understanding of the situation and might also provide a basis for breakthrough ideas once the negative thoughts have subsided.

Several studies contributed to the findings, including one that asked more than 100 professionals to complete daily online surveys just after they arrived for work in the morning and just before leaving at the end of the day. Participants worked in a variety of fields, including business, psychology, engineering and education.

The results demonstrated that the relationship between the levels of creativity was significantly stronger for those who experienced negative thinking in the morning.

A separate experimental study involving 80 students supported the proposed causal effect of an affective shift on creativity.

The researchers believe their study has implications for managers trying to stimulate creativity in employees. "In some situations, leaders may be better advised to turn employees' attentions to problematic aspects of a situation" the researchers wrote in the study.

An unrelated study investigated differences among drug addicts (both patients in maintenance treatment and patients in rehabilitation) and cannabis-users with respect to verbal creativity and general cognitive ability. Researchers assessed participants on different facets of creativity, intelligence and psychiatric symptoms --- openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neurticism.

Results indicated that patients in maintenance and, to some extent cannabis-users scored higher regarding verbal creativity than patients in rehabilitation.

Patients in maintenance treatment scored highest on neuroticism while cannabis-users achieved the highest scores with respect to openness and extraversion.