Thursday, July 21, 2005

Latent Inhibition & Creativity

In my post on Tuesday - I promised to blog on the creative thought process later in the week. I had been reading of a study published in September of 2003 by Psychologists at the University of Toronto and Harvard University, so this is of course not new material... simply new to me.

According to the published report, the researchers evidently identified at least one of the biological bases of creativity. It finds that the brains of creative people seem to be more open to incoming stimuli from surrounding environment while other people might shut out this same information by what is called "latent inhibition." That process was defined as an animal's unconscious capacity to ignore stimuli that experience has shown to be irrelevant to its needs. Through testing, it was found that creative people seemed to have low levels of latent inhabitation and left them in contact with extra information constantly streaming from their environment. Jordan Peterson a professor at the University of Toronto explained, "The normal person classifies an object, and then forgets about it, even though the object is much more complex and interesting the he or she thinks. The creative person, by contrast, is always open to new possibilities."

Tests administered to Harvard undergraduate students classified as eminent creative achievers with a single area of creative achievement were found to be seven times more likely to have low latent inhabitation scores.

So low levels of latent inhabitation are a good thing? The report suggests that with high intellectual functioning and good working memory it may be a positive thing. The capacity to think about many things at once is good if it can be achieved - but negative otherwise. Professor Patterson put it this way- "If you are open to new information, new ideas, you better be able to intelligently and carefully edit and choose. If you have 50 ideas, only two or three are likely to be good. You have to discriminate or you'll get swamped."

That swamped description that Patterson described is something that I can associate with. I'm sure everyone feels swamped at times. I believe doing so is specifically a denotation of ADD or AD/HD. However, it seems that many of the times that I feel "swamped" there seem to be an abundance of external stimuli. So, from a very personal perspective, I can identify with the aspects of this study.

At the moment I am not on any medication for ADD treatment - though I have previously had limited experience with two medications and I am reassessing medication options. While creativity as it relates to my writing is only a portion of my life, I do think about the impact of medication on my creative thought process. I also have to think about the impact of medication or non-medication on the other aspects of my life, such as family, work, etc.

creativity mental health writing

Biological basis for creativity linked to mental illness.
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