[Continued from Asperger's and Creativity Part 2]
Quirks and creativity
Scott Barry Kaufman, a cognitive psychologist at NYU interested in intelligence and creativity development, commented in a post of his:
“I think a lot of things that we call ‘quirks’, or maybe even some things we call ‘disabilities’, can turn out to be some of the determinants of high levels of creativity that we never could plan ahead of time.”
From Conversations on Creativity with Darold Treffert, Part I: Defining Autism, Savantism, and Genius.
[Photo from his video "Creativity" - see a clip in my post Don’t You Have To Be “Gifted and Talented” To Be Creative?]
In his book Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, Kaufman writes about many aspects of the syndrome, and notes that people with Asperger’s tend to do “exceptionally well on perceptual tests of fluid reasoning, such as the Raven’s progressive matrices test.”
[Continued from Asperger's and Creativity Part 1]
A number of movies and TV shows have characters who show characteristics associated with autism – with varying degrees of accuracy, according to critics – including “Touch,” “Parenthood,” physicist Sheldon Cooper on “The Big Bang Theory” and forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan on “Bones.”
The photo is actor Thomas Horn in the powerful movie “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” as Oskar, a “nine-year-old amateur inventor, Francophile, and pacifist who searches New York City for the lock that matches a mysterious key left behind by his father, who died in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001″ [imdb.com].
The photo is from the article “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Familiar” by Beth Arky, (Child Mind Institute), who noted “Autism advocates embrace the movie, and slam critics who disparage the hero.”
Can Asperger’s Syndrome or related conditions include neurological differences and qualities that enhance creativity?
A page on the Asperger’s Association of New England site – What is Asperger Syndrome? – declares “There is strong evidence that such superstars as Vincent Van Gogh, Emily Dickinson, Albert Einstein, code-breaker Alan Turing, and musician Glen Gould, among many others, all had Asperger Syndrome. Today, too, there are adults with AS who are successful as professors, lawyers, physicians, artists, authors, and educators.”
The Asperger’s Syndrome page on webmd.com says “Many children with Asperger’s syndrome are exceptionally talented or skilled in a particular area, such as music or math.”
In his book: “Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined,” cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman refers to a study by Catya von Karolyi, Ellen Winner, Wendy Gray, and Gordon Sherman: “Dyslexia linked to talent: Global visual-spatial ability” in the journal Brain and Language.
The researchers “argue that dyslexic individuals may excel at visual-spatial tasks that rely on the right hemisphere, because the right hemisphere tends to process information holistically.”
They evaluated people viewing “impossible figures”: objects that “seem to be 3-D but could not actually exist in 3-D space. Examples can be found in M. C. Escher’s paintings, such as his famous impossible staircase painting, Ascending and Descending.
“There were a lot of benefits to being dyslexic for me…I think I came into an appreciation of all those qualities of language…” Novelist Richard Ford
Although traditionally classified as a learning disability, dyslexia can also lead to advantages in thinking and behaving that enhance creativity.
Dyslexia is defined by one authority as “a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.” [The International Dyslexia Association.]
Richard Ford has explained how it was a benefit to his creativity as a writer: “When I finally did reconcile myself to how slow I was going to have to do it, then I think I came into an appreciation of all those qualities of language and of sentences that are not just the cognitive aspects.
His Scientific American blog Beautiful Minds notes Scott Barry Kaufman, PhD is “adjunct assistant professor of psychology at New York University, where he teaches courses on cognitive psychology and human intelligence” and is a co-founder of The Creativity Post.
In a post for that site, he writes that his new book “Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined” includes “my personal and scientific exploration of a broad range of research on the development of IQ, expertise, talent, and creativity.
“My investigation spans genetics and neuroscience, as well as evolutionary, developmental, social, positive, and cognitive psychology.”
In this video – “Use It or Lose It Expert: Scott Barry Kaufman” (for National Geographic) – he talks about how developing creative thinking involves moving back and forth from broad fields of attention, to more narrow ones.
“Art is a marriage of the conscious and the unconscious.” Jean Cocteau
How much of creative inspiration and problem solving is from our unconscious, and how can we get more in touch with our vast inner landscape?
This famous “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” is a 1907 painting by Gustav Klimt.
In his book “The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present,” Nobel Prize winner psychiatrist Eric R. Kandel notes that Klimt historians Sophie Lillie and Georg Gaugusch commented about the painting that it “appears a compelling visual expression of Freud’s theory that emotions buried in the subconscious rise to the surface in disguised form.”
In another passage, Kandel writes, “Like other modern artists faced with the advent of photography, Klimt sought newer truths that could not be captured by the camera.
“He, and particularly his younger protégés Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele, turned the artist’s view inward — away from the three-dimensional outside world and toward the multidimensional inner self and the unconscious mind.”
In her definition of visual spatial learners, Dr. Linda Silverman, who pioneered the concept, includes the quality of being a late bloomer, as well as “creatively, mechanically, emotionally, or technologically gifted.”
People who are ‘auditory-sequential’ learners are considered more academically talented and likely to be an early bloomer.
There are certainly many people who are creatively productive earlier in life, but painter Robert Genn notes there are a number of artists who are late bloomers.
In his article Early and late bloomers, he notes “Cezanne did not preconceive his work, but rather let the painting-in-progress tell him what it needed.
“He took a long time, was always dissatisfied, and bloomed late. He’s the third most illustrated French artist of the Twentieth Century. Of all his reproduced and celebrated images, only 2% are from his twenties.”
Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) created this painting “Road Before the Mountains, Sainte-Victoire” in his 60′s, between 1898–1902, according to the Wikipedia page.
In Part 1 of this post, I mentioned two articles that refer to multiple research studies; here are more excerpts from those articles, plus additional material.
In “The science of creativity,” Amy Novotney notes a study at Harvard Medical School in which creativity researchers suggest sleeping on a problem.
Psychologist Deirde Barrett, PhD “asked her students to imagine a problem they were trying to solve before going to sleep and found that they were able to come up with novel solutions in their dreams.
“In the study, published in Dreaming (Vol. 3, No. 2), half of the participants reported having dreams that addressed their chosen problems, and a quarter came up with solutions in their dreams.”
“We’re in a different biochemical state when we’re dreaming, and that’s why I think dreams can be so helpful anytime we’re stuck in our usual mode of thinking,” Barrett says.
There may not yet be a “unified field theory” in the science of creativity that definitively explains what it is and how the creative mind operates (see my previous post Do We Have a Science of Creativity?), but a number of research findings provide information in support of developing our creativity and innovation.
In her American Psychological Association article “The science of creativity,” Amy Novotney notes psychologist Robert Epstein, PhD. considers stress and time constraints as inhibitors of creativity.
“When you’re in graduate school, there are so many constraints on you. It’s detrimental to creative expression,” says Epstein, author of “The Big Book of Creativity Games.”
Novotney continues, “Yet it’s almost impossible to conquer any graduate school activity without at least some innovative thinking.
“Collaborating with other researchers, finding a subfield that excites you, maneuvering your way through an unexpected set of findings, and balancing the demands of your work and home life all require creative problem-solving.”