Hello everyone, great news and something I wrote about already a few times. It is great to get some more, much needed validation. I mentioned the study below before and since I like the way it is presented in the newsletter from Dr. Rabiner, I thought it would be nice to share it with you! I have copied and pasted it. He sends out some great information so you might want to consider subscribing to his newsletter if you like.
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New Evidence that ADHD may Enhance Creativity
The difficulties associated with ADHD have been extensively documented. In fact, such studies comprise a substantial portion of the published research on ADHD. This type of work has helped increase awareness of the struggles experienced by many individuals with ADHD and has highlighted the importance of obtaining appropriate treatment.
What has been lost - or at least overlooked - in most ADHD research is the possibility that ADHD may also confer some benefits. Certainly, many individuals with ADHD manage to thrive and it is not uncommon to hear individuals discuss ways that having ADHD has benefited them. I certainly recall several of my clients reporting that 'getting lost in their thoughts', having different ideas rolling around in their mind when they were supposed to be focusing on one thing, and having their attention easily drawn to things going on around them contributed to their generating lots of interesting ideas and to putting things together in interesting ways.
Is there any evidence that ADHD may actually predispose individuals to become more creative? Russell Barkley, one of the world's leading researchers and experts on ADHD, has argued against the notion that ADHD confers benefits as well as liabilities, stating in a recent NY Times article that "There is no evidence that A.D.H.D. is a 'gift' or conveys any advantages beyond what other people in the general population might have. People with A.D.H.D. are individuals, like anyone else, and may have been blessed with particular talents that are superior to levels seen in most people. But these talents have nothing to do with having A.D.H.D. — they would have had them anyway." However, a study published last year in the journal Personality and Individual Differences [White & Shah (2011). Creative style and achievement in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Personality and Individual Differences, 50, 673-677.] suggests that this is not necessarily true and that people with ADHD may actually produce more creative work.
Participants were 60 college students, 30 of whom had been diagnosed with ADHD and 30 comparison students. Both males and females were well represented and their creativity was assessed in 3 different ways.
First, participants completed the Creativity Achievement Questionnaire (CAQ), a measure where individuals report their creative accomplishments in 10 domains: drama, humor, music, visual arts, creative writing, invention, scientific discovery, culinary arts, dance, and architecture. An example of an item from the CAQ would be 'My work has won a prize at a juried art show.' Thus, the measure provides an indication of real world creative accomplishment. Scores are obtained in each domain and for creative accomplishments overall. Research indicates that this measure provides a reliable and valid assessment of creative achievements.
Students also completed the FourSight Thinking Profile, a self-report measure of one's preferred style when dealing with real world problem solving situations. Four problem solving styles are identified: 1. Clarifiers - those with a preference for defining and structuring the problem to be solved; 2. Ideators - those who prefer to generate ideas for solving the problem at hand; 3. Developers - those who prefer to elaborate or refine ideas that are initially suggested; and, 4. Implementers - those who prefer to put a refined idea into action.
Clearly, these are all important aspects of creative problem solving and one style is not inherently better or worse than any other. The authors predicted would show greater preference for being idea generators, i.e., the Ideator style, while comparison students would show greater Clarifier and Developer preferences.
Finally, participants completed the Abbreviated Torrance Test for Adults (ATTA); this is a standardized and widely used measure of divergent creative thinking. Divergent thinking occurs when we generate many possible ideas about how to solve a particular problem. When we engage in divergent thinking, multiple approaches to addressing a problem are identified quickly; in the process, unexpected and creative connections between different ideas can emerge.
Tasks on the ATTA draw on both verbal and figural, i.e., nonverbal, creative abilities. The Verbal section examines one’s ability to think creatively with words, whereas the Figural tests assess an individual’s ability to think creatively with pictures. Examples of verbal tasks include making suggestions to improve a toy and thinking of as many different uses as possible for a common item, e.g., a brick. Examples of figural creativity tasks include picture construction, i.e., participants use basic shapes to create a picture and picture completion, i.e.,completing and assigning titles to incomplete drawings.
Real world creative accomplishments - Students with ADHD had significantly higher overall scores on the Creative Achievement Questionnaire than comparison students. In addition, their average score was higher for each of the 10 domains. Thus, it was not just in less academic domains like music and visual arts where students with ADHD reported higher creative accomplishments, but also in science, writing and architecture.
An interesting aspect of these findings is that the range of scores was much greater among students with ADHD as was the amount of variability. Thus, it does not appear that creative accomplishments were uniformly higher among these students; instead, the higher overall average is likely to reflect very high levels of creative accomplishment by a subset of these students. FourSight Thinking Profile - As noted above, this is not a direct measure of creative ability per se, but instead reflects individuals' preferred problem solving style. As predicted, students with ADHD showed preference for the 'ideator' style, i.e., they preferred to generate multiple ideas, while other students preferred the 'clarifier' and 'developer' styles.
Abbreviated Torrance Test for Adults - On this validated test of creative thinking, students with ADHD did not score higher than peers overall. However, as predicted, they scored significantly higher on tasks that measure verbal originality.
Effects of medication - Half of the students with ADHD were being treated with medication while half were not. No differences between these groups were found on any of the creativity assessments. As the authors note, however, their ability to detect any differences was limited by the small sample.
Summary and Implications:
Results from this interesting study support the notion that ADHD is associated with enhanced creativity in young adults. An important strength of this study is that it employed multiple measures of creativity - real world creative accomplishments, preferred problem solving style, and performance on a lab-based measure of verbal creativity. As noted above, students with ADHD surpassed their peers in their real world creative accomplishments and on the lab assessment of verbal creativity. They also showed a preference for being idea generators as opposed to 'refiners' or 'clarifiers' of existing ideas.
Why might ADHD be linked with creative performance? One possibility suggested by the authors - and which is consistent with recent theoretical work on the nature of ADHD - is that individuals with ADHD are characterized by poorer inhibitory control. Deficits in inhibition make it harder to maintain focus on a single thought or idea and to screen out extraneous stimuli; this can result in having more random thoughts and ideas and spending more time with multiple thoughts and ideas in one's mind provides increased opportunity to draw interesting connections. In theory, this may contribute to the development of less conventional thinking and to enhanced divergent thinking skills. It is also possible that the nature of creative activity is a better match for people with ADHD than activities where success depends on sticking to a predetermined plan and/or working to find a single correct solution. As a result, they may spend more time in creative pursuits and thus get better at them.
The preference that individuals with ADHD show for the 'ideator' style may be important in regards to the type of work environment where they are most likely to thrive. Specifically, this style suggests that they may be especially well suited for entrepreneurial pursuits and careers that place a premium on divergent thinking skills. Of course, other types of thinking skills are also important as even the most creative and motivated entrepreneur is less likely to succeed if he/she is unable to carry out their plans in a disciplined and consistent way.
Another way these findings may be applied is to highlight for children the potential benefits ADHD may confer in terms of creative thinking and creative accomplishments. This could offset the notion of having a deficit/disorder and contribute to the development of talents that enhance self-esteem.
While findings from this study suggest that enhanced creativity may be a real benefit associated with ADHD, replicating these findings with a larger sample, and with children and adolescents would be an important next step. It is also important not to lose sight of the very real difficulties that are associated with ADHD and to recognize that for many, this is a highly impairing condition for which ongoing treatment is required.
That being said, it is a nice change to come upon a well conducted study that conveys a hopeful and optimistic message based on what appear to be solid findings.
What do you think of the findings?
Isn't it funny how people need studies to figure out the obvious? I almost never liked being around many people - other women in particular - before I became a novelist. Everyone was so boring! But then, I found my "own kind." Virtually every fiction writer (and musician, photographer, and artist) is obviously ADD, at least to some extent. I often think a great deal of "ADD/ADHD" labeling is just a way for the "regular" folk to pigeonhole those they don't understand.
Yes, I agree with you. There are more studies forthcoming that will be looking at benefits to ADHD and I am eager to discover their findings.
As always, good to hear from you!!
Tamara - You're exactly right...they're all Muggles and we're not. To paraphrase J K Rowling "You're a Wizard Tamara!"
I am reading Imagine...How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer presently.
Several creativity studies are mentioned in the first few chapters in which those with adhd did much better than those without.
Thanks, MrJohn! I added the book to Creative Unique in the bookstore. Sounds like a book I'll want to read.
Creativity is never a problem to us. The fact is we are all well trained to instantly come up with ideas, just to solve the mess we didn't notice until someone smack it right at the face.
Like all the cooping methods Bryan has written all the way down, we are likely to give up before the work is finished.
All we need to do is make our creative ideas happen!
Giving up, or not finding motivation or losing interest I think are serious factors for us, Vicary. One of the problems I have noticed with me and have read quite a few times is that we have so many ideas and switch from one to the other so fast that we lose interest in a project or do not complete some projects. In this way we want to be more average and focus on just one thing and complete that one thing. However, I don't believe there is anything wrong with working on multiple projects and moving from one to the other. When I got over trying to be this robotic ideal person and just allowed my creative flow to work in the way that my brain works I became more productive. And I discovered something very important along the way. The first project that I start is usually only the idea for the next project and each string contributes and do not necessarily need to be completed. Realizing that helped me become prolific and accomplish so much more. It's amazing how much we stop ourselves because we don't perform in the way we were taught or the way we think is 'expected'.
Of course, that could just be me :-)
You're not alone, Bryan.
From time to time I have to find other projects as "distractions" purposely to keep me from losing interest in the original one. Funny enough, it actually keeps me working until it reaches a general acceptable completeness.
I believe most of the ADDers are creative enough to have our own cooping methods. For the rest, they just need the confidence to give their own ideas a try!
Like Tamara had said, is there any more evidence needed?
Not, for us experiencing the "magical" experience of ADD.
Yes, for people who do not want to get acquainted with the facts that makes us different.
As having to cope with my ADD and my son's, I came to the question of medicating the ADD. I was suggested to give him some medications to make his general attitude more "normal", to help him prevent not being focused on school lessons, to overcome the sense of boredom, to prevent his urge to act in "non socially adequate" way...
All those feelings are common to all people, yet it seems that ADD are just very frank with showing their feelings, they are not trying to be "socially adequate" as much as others do, this category means nothing to them and to me. My main life principle is "do not do the others the things you do not want to be done to yourself".
Well, as sometimes caught in situation that would make me think about giving some medicine to my son, when his attitude would escalate, I had discussions with myself. I think that everything we put in ourselves (thinking about food) has a certain impact on our health. Specially, if it is not coming from nature.
The medicament have their bad effects, the kinds affect our mental health would certainly change one's personality, one's unique way of thinking, one's unique way of looking on the world around us.
So, if the person is not aggressive, not tending to harm who are we to change this person, his personality and his creativity that makes this world better place.
Creativity is certainly not a result of usual thinking. Creative ideas are coming in collision of different thoughts magically gathered in new one, this wonderful chaos when the thoughts are jumping like bubbles from geyser.
I never wanted to change my beautiful inner life to one trucked mind, in spite of all difficulties I am having to cope with this abundance of information.
I embrace every idea that comes to me and when I succeed in realizing them(they are not all suitable for realization) it makes me very proud and the feeling that this world around us as we ourselves are just part of great magical play.
We obviously need to prove our creativity to non-ADDers and some "researchers and "experts." Having ANY difference or challenge changes how we see the world. My multiple birth challenges and other challenges has given me a different perspective than most ADDers. We have to be creative in order to make our lives work. I have a change in perspective for every difference and/or challenge. I even consider my multiple birth challenges (a.k.a. birth "defects") gifts. I have met people with cerebral palsy who have told me they consider their cerebral palsy a gift and gave them a different perspective on life.
I guess, Sarah, the only thing I don't like, and a bit from what your not saying in your comment, is the type of people who try to control how others think and believe, or what we think and believe. No one can tell you what are or are not your gifts. That's up to you to decide. Keep moving forward and keep me updated on your book!!
My book is going to address this very topic, at least in part. It's not going to be exclusively about ADD/ADHD. :-)