Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Hmm, no shit -- "Biological basis for creativity linked to mental illness" (article)

Interesting article I stumbled upon:

Biological basis for creativity linked to mental illness

Creative people more open to stimuli from environment

Psychologists from U of T and Harvard University have identified one of the biological bases of creativity.

The study in the September issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology says the brains of creative people appear to be more open to incoming stimuli from the surrounding environment. Other people's brains might shut out this same information through a process called "latent inhibition" - defined as an animal's unconscious capacity to ignore stimuli that experience has shown are irrelevant to its needs. Through psychological testing, the researchers showed that creative individuals are much more likely to have low levels of latent inhibition.

"This means that creative individuals remain in contact with the extra information constantly streaming in from the environment," says co-author and U of T psychology professor Jordan Peterson. "The normal person classifies an object, and then forgets about it, even though that object is much more complex and interesting than he or she thinks. The creative person, by contrast, is always open to new possibilities."

Previously, scientists have associated failure to screen out stimuli with psychosis. However, Peterson and his co-researchers - lead author and psychology lecturer Shelley Carson of Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Harvard PhD candidate Daniel Higgins - hypothesized that it might also contribute to original thinking, especially when combined with high IQ. They administered tests of latent inhibition to Harvard undergraduates. Those classified as eminent creative achievers - participants under age 21 who reported unusually high scores in a single area of creative achievement - were seven times more likely to have low latent inhibition scores.

The authors hypothesize that latent inhibition may be positive when combined with high intelligence and good working memory - the capacity to think about many things at once - but negative otherwise. Peterson states: "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 be able to discriminate or you'll get swamped."

"Scientists have wondered for a long time why madness and creativity seem linked," says Carson. "It appears likely that low levels of latent inhibition and exceptional flexibility in thought might predispose to mental illness under some conditions and to creative accomplishment under others."

For example, during the early stages of diseases such as schizophrenia, which are often accompanied by feelings of deep insight, mystical knowledge and religious experience, chemical changes take place in which latent inhibition disappears.

"We are very excited by the results of these studies," says Peterson. "It appears that we have not only identified one of the biological bases of creativity but have moved towards cracking an age-old mystery: the relationship between genius, madness and the doors of perception."

[ Source: ]


Anonymous said...

Fascinating, thanks for posting this Neb.

Nebulosus Severine / CM Pauluh said...

My pleasure. :) It all seems to make so much sense.

Anonymous said...

Yes! I knew I was a mentalist, this just makes me feel there is a purpose to it all.

Nebulosus Severine / CM Pauluh said...

You and me both, Mr.!

Amy said...

I might use this article for a class... thank you.

I really think psych professionals should be required to study the history of art. (Ok, that's like Pet Project #543908 of mine, which is a whole other story, but whatever. I really think it would help if they did this.)

AstroSphinx said...

In a world trying so hard to classify people into tiny catigories, I fear that this is the fuel to the fire of those who would like a blanket of "normal" to cover everyone's perceptions-

I have been long struggling with these ideas.. about perception, now, afer reading this I realise there is nothing to struggle with, its just as it is, as it should be.. a heightened awareness of the environment around me. Very much like all animals much certainly function- the human animal, no exception.

Although I never felt any link to "madness" I have always felt that there was a problem with the defining perimeters often eclipsing the useful and creative-- I can go so far sometimes to feel that "madness" is a marketing plea- and any form of the creative as something always in consideration for a kind of "Treatment"...

As a creative person now, we must all be careful and try to validate our "sanity" to those who find our perceptions, a little too overwhelming for their cut and dried experience of life :)

Thanks for sharing..

Nebulosus Severine / CM Pauluh said...

Point understood, Astrosphinx -- I don't view the eccentricities of creativity as 'madness'; but there is often a great deal of mental anguish that comes along with it, and that is the part that's often hard to deal with for the creative individual.

AstroSphinx said...

My deepest dread is that the mental anguish you describe feels more like that undying urge to be understood by those who are different possibly due to the fact, if its true about what the traits of the creative IS...(as seen on your blogg today) we try to understand the other side of the fence we don't walk on, however others don't often give the same consideration.

More and more I feel that with age that maybe, although I never strived to be "understood".. sometimes it would be nice, if someone who was on a different side actually TRIED to understand.

Thanks for your reply and empathy.