Love and Creativity

Excerpt from “Does Falling in Love Make Us More Creative?” by Nira Liberman and Oren Shapira, Scientific American: Mind Matters (September 29, 2009):

Why does the act of falling in love—or at least thinking about love—lead to such a spur of creative productivity?

Bright Star (Ben Wishaw and Abbie Cornish)

One possibility is that when we’re in love we actually think differently. This romantic hypothesis was recently tested by the psychologists Jens Förster, Kai Epstude, and Amina Özelsel at the University of Amsterdam. The researchers found that love really does alter our thoughts, and that this profound emotion affects us in a way that is different than simply thinking about sex.

Bright Star (Ben Wishaw)

The clever experiments demonstrated that love makes us think differently in that it triggers global processing, which in turn promotes creative thinking and interferes with analytic thinking. Thinking about sex, however, has the opposite effect: it triggers local processing, which in turn promotes analytic thinking and interferes with creativity.

Bright Star (Abbie Cornish)

Why does love make us think more globally? The researchers suggest that romantic love induces a long-term perspective, whereas sexual desire induces a short-term perspective. This is because love typically entails wishes and goals of prolonged attachment with a person, whereas sexual desire is typically focused on engaging in sexual activities in the "here and now". Consistent with this idea, when the researchers asked people to imagine a romantic date or a casual sex encounter, they found that those who imagined dates imagined them as occurring farther into the future than those who imagined casual sex.

Bright Star (Abbie Cornish and Ben Wishaw)

According to construal level theory (CLT), thinking about events that are farther into the future or past—or any kind psychological distancing (such as considering things or people that are physically farther away, or considering remote, unlikely alternatives to reality) triggers a more global processing style. In other words, psychological distancing makes us see the forest rather than the individual trees.