Creativity is an upside to ADHD

March 11, 2011

Parents who believe that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder makes their kids more creative got a little more scientific support recently.

A new study in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences found adults with enjoyed more creative achievement than those who didn't have the disorder.

"For the same reason that ADHD might create problems, like distraction, it can also allow an openness to new ideas," says Holly White, assistant professor of cognitive psychology at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida and co-author of the paper. "Not being completely focused on a task lets the mind make associations that might not have happened otherwise."

White and Priti Shah at the University of Michigan gave 60 college students – half of them with ADHD – a series of tests measuring creativity across 10 domains. The ADHD group scored higher across the board. The ADHD group showed more of a preference for brainstorming and generating ideas than the non-ADHD group, which preferred refining and clarifying ideas.

The study is a follow-up to one done in 2006, which focused on laboratory measures of creativity and found that ADHD individuals show better performance on tests of creative divergent thinking. "We didn't know if that would translate into real-life achievement," says Shah. "The current study suggests that it does."

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