Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 21st 2014 Contents A26
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Comedians have personality types linked with
psychosis, like many other creative types, which
might explain why they can entertain, researchers
They score highly on characteristics that in extreme
cases are associated with mental illness, a study by
Oxford University researchers suggests.
Unusually, they have high levels of both introversion
The team says the creative elements needed for
humour are similar to traits seen in people with psy-
The idea that creativity in art and science is con-
nected with mental health problems has long captured
the public imagination.
However, there has been little research on whether
comedians have some of the traits---in a healthy form
---associated with psychosis (delusions or hallucinations
that can be present in schizophrenia and bipolar dis-
Researchers from the University of Oxford and
Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust studied
523 comedians (404 men and 119 women) from the
UK, US and Australia.
The comedians were asked to complete an online
questionnaire designed to measure psychotic traits
in healthy people.
The four aspects measured were:
Unusual experiences (belief in telepathy and
Cognitive disorganisation (distractibility and dif-
ficulty in focusing thoughts);
Introvertive anhedonia (reduced ability to feel
social and physical pleasure, including an avoidance
Impulsive non-conformity (tendency towards
impulsive, antisocial behaviour).
The questionnaire was also completed by 364
actors---another profession used to performing---as a
control group, and by a group of 831 people who
worked in non-creative areas.
The researchers found that comedians scored sig-
nificantly higher on all four types of psychotic per-
sonality traits than the general group, with particularly
high scores for both extroverted and introverted per-
The actors scored higher than the general group
on three types---but not on the introverted personality
The researchers believe this unusual personality
structure may help explain the ability of comedians
Professor Gordon Claridge, of the University of
Oxford's Department of Experimental Psychology,
said: "The creative elements needed to produce
humour are strikingly similar to those characterising
the cognitive style of people with psychosis---both
schizophrenia and bipolar disorder."
He said although schizophrenic psychosis itself
could be detrimental to humour, in a lesser form it
could increase people's ability to associate odd or
unusual things or to think "outside the box."
Manic thinking, which is found in those with bipolar
disorder, may help people combine ideas to form new,
original and humorous connections, he added.
Prof Claridge told BBC News: "Comedians tend to
be slightly withdrawn, introverted people who may
not always want to socialise, and their comedy is
almost an outlet for that. It's a kind of self-medication."
Dr James MacCabe, of the Institute of Psychiatry,
at King's College, London, said: "Psychosis is not a
problem with personality, it's a more severe disorder
"People with psychosis and schizophrenia have a
very impaired ability to appreciate humorous mate-
Paul Jenkins, CEO of the charity Rethink Mental
Illness said these were interesting findings, but we
must guard against the "mad creative genius stereo-
Comedians have 'high
levels of psychotic traits'
type. Mental illnesses like schizophrenia can affect
anyone, whether they are creative or not. Our knowl-
edge and understanding of mental illness still lags far
behind our understanding of physical illnesses, and
what we really need is much more research in this
area." The research is published in The British Journal
of Psychiatry. (BBC)
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
Researchers found that comedians scored high for both extroverted and introverted
personality traits. This unusual personality structure may help explain the ability of
comedians to entertain.
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