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Creative Thinking and Being Introverted or Highly Sensitive

A number of writers and researchers associate the personality traits of high sensitivity and introversion with creativity, and find that creative people are more likely to be characterized and impacted in various ways by having these qualities.

Elaine Aron, PhD, author of the The Highly Sensitive Person, thinks “HSPs are all creative by definition because we process things so thoroughly and notice so many subtleties and emotional meanings that we can easily put two unusual things together.”

[From my post Being Highly Sensitive and Creative.]

Creativity coach and therapist Lisa Riley notes, “Throughout my practice, I have encountered a connection between highly sensitive people and their own creative impulses…

“Creatives often feel and perceive more intensely, dramatically, and with a wildly vivid color palate to draw from, which can only be described as looking at the world through a much larger lens.”

[From her guest post (on one of my sites) Highly Sensitive Personality and Creativity.]

One of the personality types identified by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is “ISFP” – which refers to people who lean toward Introversion, Sensing, Feeling and Perceiving. Some well-known people that researchers consider being this personality type include a number of artists such as Fred Astaire, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Barbara Streisand, Paul McCartney, Auguste Rodin, and Mozart.

[From An Overview of the ISFP Personality Type, By Kendra Cherry,]

The photo is, of course, “The Thinker” by Rodin. It is from the page (on her site) called Manifesto by author Susan Cain on which she makes several statements on this topic, including:

‘There’s a word for “people who are in their heads too much”: thinkers’; ‘Our culture rightly admires risk-takers, but we need our “heed-takers” more than ever’ and ‘Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.’

In her TED video (below, and at the site: Susan Cain: The power of introverts) she talks about finding summer camp “was more like a keg party without any alcohol. And on the very first day our counselor gathered us all together and she taught us a cheer that she said we would be doing every day for the rest of the summer to instill camp spirit.

“And it went like this: ‘R-O-W-D-I-E, that’s the way we spell rowdie. Rowdie, rowdie, let’s get rowdie.’ Yeah. So I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why we were supposed to be so rowdy, or why we had to spell this word incorrectly. (Laughter) But I recited a cheer. I recited a cheer along with everybody else. I did my best. And I just waited for the time that I could go off and read my books.

“But the first time that I took my book out of my suitcase, the coolest girl in the bunk came up to me and she asked me, ‘Why are you being so mellow?’ — mellow, of course, being the exact opposite of R-O-W-D-I-E.”

Cain adds there have been many times in her life when she “got the message that somehow my quiet and introverted style of being was not necessarily the right way to go, that I should be trying to pass as more of an extrovert…”

And, she adds, “Now this is what many introverts do, and it’s our loss for sure, but it is also our colleagues’ loss and our communities’ loss. And at the risk of sounding grandiose, it is the world’s loss. Because when it comes to creativity and to leadership, we need introverts doing what they do best.”

In her Scientific American article The Power of Introverts: A Manifesto for Quiet Brilliance, Cain writes, “Most schools and workplaces now organize workers and students into groups, believing that creativity and productivity comes from a gregarious place.

“This is nonsense, of course. From Darwin to Picasso to Dr. Seuss, our greatest thinkers have often worked in solitude, and in my book I examine lots of research on the pitfalls of groupwork.”

Introversion or sensitivity

Dr. Aron comments that Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, “is actually more about HSPs (highly sensitive people) than social introverts” and “Her discussion of ‘introversion’ throughout is almost identical to what has become the standard definition of high sensitivity—deep thinkers, preferring to process slowly, sensitive to stimuli, emotionally reactive, needing time alone, and so forth, all as described in the first scientific paper specifically on sensitivity, published in 1997, where it was systematically distinguished from the most common scientific definitions of introversion, which emphasize the social side.”

From my earlier Creative Mind post Are Introverts More Creative?

Do you consider yourself introverted and/or highly sensitive, as well as creative? If so, how does that impact your creative life?


Creative Thinking and Being Introverted or Highly Sensitive

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2013). Creative Thinking and Being Introverted or Highly Sensitive. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 13, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 Aug 2013
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