The Creative Mind in Daily Life: How Cognitive and Affective Experiences Relate to Creative Thinking and Behavior

Daniel C. Zeitlen, Paul J. Silvia, Michael J. Kane, Roger E. Beaty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Creativity has long been conceptually linked to experiences of emotion and mind wandering, yet these empirical relationships remain unclear, and few studies have explored the thoughts and emotions of creative people in daily life. To investigate how creativity relates to everyday cognitive and affective experiences, the present study (N = 159) used experience sampling to examine how creative cognition (divergent thinking ability) and creative behavior (self-reported creative activity and achievement) measured in the lab may predict thought content, affective state, and the frequency of mind wandering (i.e., task-unrelated thought) in daily life. Additionally, we assessed in-the-moment thoughts and emotions predictive of thinking about a creative project in everyday life (i.e., “creative project thought”). We found that each form of creativity was generally associated with positively-valenced experiences, such as having pleasant thoughts, enjoying one’s everyday activities, and feeling motivated and inspired. We also found that positive, activating emotions (happy and energetic) were positively associated with divergent thinking ability and in-the-moment creative project thought. Furthermore, positive, deactivating emotions (relaxed and connected) negatively predicted momentary creative project thought—indicating that positive affect can be tied to less creative thinking, depending on the activation level of emotions. No relationship was found between daily-life mind wandering frequency and divergent thinking ability or creative behavior/achievement, suggesting that the overall amount of taskunrelated thought in everyday life is not related to individual creativity. Taken together, the present findings provide novel evidence on the everyday experiential correlates of creative thinking and behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPsychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Applied Psychology


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