Autism is linked to creativity and divergent thinking, according to a new study
Autism is a brain disorder that makes it difficult for a person to interact and communicate with other people. The disorder is also characterized with limited and repetitive behavior. But a new study has found that people with autistic traits can produce unusually creative ideas and can explore more solutions to a problem.
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“People with high autistic traits could be said to have less quantity but greater quality of creative ideas. They are typically considered to be more rigid in their thinking, so the fact the ideas they have are more unusual or rare is surprising. This difference may have positive implications for creative problem solving.” Dr. Martin Doherty, the co-author of the study, said.
For the study, 312 people with high autistic traits were selected and were involved in a series of creativity tests. It turned out to be that those who had autistic traits produced few responses but their responses were more creative and original.
To test their “Divergent Thinking” or the ability to generate alternative solutions to a problem, participants were asked to provide as many alternate uses of brick or paper clip as they possibly can. Their responses were rated for quantity, elaborateness and unusualness. Those who provided four or more unique alternate uses had high level of autism.
“It should be noted that there is a lot of variation among people with autism,” said Dr. Catherine Best, health researcher from University of Stirling. “There can be people whose ability to function independently is greatly impaired and other people who are much less affected. Similarly, not all individuals with the disorder, or the traits associated with it, will exhibit strengths in creative problem solving. Trying o understand this variation will be a key part of understanding autism and the impact it has on people’s lives.”
This is the first study of its nature that examined the relationship between autism and creativity. The findings of this study could help understand more about the disorder and the process of problem solving in general population.
“This is the first study to find a link between autistic traits and the creative thinking processes. It goes a little way towards explaining how it is that some people with what is often characterized as a “disability”, exhibit superior creative talents in some domains.” Best said.
The study was published in Journal of Autism and Development Disorders.