“If you spend too much time being like everybody else, you decrease your chances of coming up with something different.” Robert Ornstein, PhD

Being highly sensitive is a common personality trait with creative people.

In my earlier post Being Highly Sensitive, Being Creative, I quoted psychologist Elaine Aron: “Highly sensitive individuals are those born with a tendency to notice more in their environment and deeply reflect on everything before acting… As a result, sensitive people, both children and adults, tend to be empathic, smart, intuitive, creative, careful, and conscientious…”

She and her husband, along with other researchers, report in a brain imaging study that highly sensitive people “have cognitive responses that appear to not be influenced by culture at all.”

A press release noted the major finding of an initial study was that “the frontal-parietal brain region known to be engaged during attention-demanding tasks was more activated for East Asians when making judgments ignoring context, not their specialty, but was more activated for Americans when making judgments when they had to take context into account, not their specialty.

“This discovery, says Dr. Arthur Aron, illustrated that each group engaged this attention system more strongly during a task more difficult for them because it is not generally supported by their cultural context. That is, even when doing a simple, abstract cognitive task, culture influences perception.”

But when the researchers did a new study of the HSP subjects, people with high sensory processing sensitivity, they found that “Culture did not influence the degree of activation of highly sensitive individuals’ brains when doing the two kinds of perceptual tasks used in the previous study.

“Also, how much they identified with their culture had no effect. It was as if, for them, culture was not an influence on their perception.”

For the press release, see Highly sensitive people less influenced by culture.


“His confidence has really grown. He’s great company. And he’s quite eccentric for his age, really batty. Great taste in music, he got me into some great bands I’ve never listened to before.”

– David Thewlis about his “Harry Potter” co-star Daniel Radcliffe. (Thewlis plays Professor Lupin.)

Being “less influenced by culture” is an aspect of eccentricity, as well as high sensitivity. Some of the most beloved actors, for example, can be eccentric in various ways – but maybe it’s an orientation that can help any of us be more creative.

“I hope I’m becoming more eccentric. More room in the brain.”

Musician Tom Waits – from my post Being eccentric and creative and productive – non-conformity and your creative potential.


Robert Ornstein, PhD, is author of The Psychology of Consciousness.

Einstein and other non-conformists – the creative potential of eccentricity

article: Eccentricity and Creativity.