Did you ever think that maybe your child is too creative when they tell you a convincing story or excuse? Catharine Paddock, PhD describes some research conducted by investigators at Harvard and Duke universities that suggests a possible “down” side to creativity:
New research from the US suggests that creative or original thinkers can be less honest and may be more likely to cheat than less creative people, perhaps because they are better able to invent excuses to “explain” their actions. Lead researcher Dr Francesca Gino of Harvard University, and co-author Dr Dan Ariely, of Duke University, write about their findings in the 28 November online issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, a publication of the American Psychological Association.
Gino told the media that:
“Greater creativity helps individuals solve difficult tasks across many domains, but creative sparks may lead individuals to take unethical routes when searching for solutions to problems and tasks.”
Read more on Medical News Today.
Although there have been conflicting results on whether Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) confers any advantage in terms of creativity, a number of parents and clinicians report that children and adults with ADHD do seem more creative or “out of the box” thinkers than the non-ADHD population. Two researchers provide a more refined and theoretical model for assessing whether the lack of inhibitory control that is a cardinal feature of ADHD corresponds to different types of creativity.
Holly A. White and Priti Shah have an article in an upcoming issue of Personality and Individual Differences (Volume 50, Issue 5, April 2011, Pages 673-677) that follows up on their previous work on creativity in adults with ADHD. Here is the abstract:
Previous research has suggested that adults with ADHD perform better on some measures of creativity than non-ADHD adults (White & Shah, 2006). The present study replicated previous findings using a standardized measure of creativity (the Abbreviated Torrance Test for Adults, Goff & Torrance, 2002) and extended previous research by investigating real-world creative achievement among adults with ADHD. Results indicated that adults with ADHD showed higher levels of original creative thinking on the verbal task of the ATTA and higher levels of real-world creative achievement, compared to adults without ADHD. In addition, comparison of creative styles using the FourSight Thinking Profile (Puccio, 2002) found that preference for idea generation was higher among ADHD participants, whereas preference for problem clarification and idea development was greater among non-ADHD participants. These findings have implications for real-world application of the creative styles of adults with and without ADHD.
While the full article is not freely available online, their earlier study, “Uninhibited imaginations: Creativity in adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder” is available online. Those who believe that ADHD does confer a creative advantage will find their results fascinating as it points to the types of creative tasks in which individuals with ADHD may outshine their non-ADHD peers.
The idea that some conditions such as ADHD or Tourette’s can disinhibit and promote creative processes is not new, and psychiatrist Dr. Michael Fitzgerald has even written books on creativity and Asperger’s, creativity and Autism, and more recently, ADHD and creativity. In his most recent book, he examined the lives of notable achievers including Thomas Edison, Kurt Cobain, Oscar Wilde, Lord Byron Jules Verne, Che Guevara, James Dean, Clark Gable, Picasso, Mark Twain and Sir Walter Raleigh. Based on historical research, the professor believes all these high-achievers had or displayed symptoms of ADHD.
While such books and stories are intriguing, it has often struck me how many different disability organizations try to claim famous people had their particular disorder by focusing on one or two elements of the individual’s life. In some cases, where detailed descriptions of behavior of the individual are available, the retrospective diagnoses seem more warranted than others. I have not read Professor Fitzgerald’s book, but it will be interesting to see what evidence he cites to support his conclusions.
But what does more scientific research on creativity and ADHD indicate? If ADHD and creativity are really linked somehow, we would expect to find that a higher percentage of children with ADHD are creative than their non-ADHD peers or that average creativity scores as measured by tests of creativity would be higher — or both. While this may disappoint some parents to learn, the research does not provide support for any association between ADHD and creativity.