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ADHD May Offer an Edge To Creative Endeavors

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Holly White, PhD Research Scientist Basic and Applied Cognition Laboratory Department of Psychology University of Michigan

Dr. White

Holly White, PhD
Research Scientist
Basic and Applied Cognition Laboratory
Department of Psychology
University of Michigan

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: This study was inspired by my previous findings of higher originality and creative achievement among adults with ADHD, as well as my personal observations of individuals with ADHD choosing non-traditional approaches to problem solving. College students with ADHD sometimes ignore task instructions and examples, and while this may lead to errors, it may also lead to extraordinarily unique answers and solutions. I was curious as to whether this tendency of ADHD individuals to think in an unconventional and expansive manner might lead to resistance to conformity during creative tasks.

In the present study, college students with ADHD were less likely to copy experimenter-provided task examples, compared to non-ADHD peers, on a product label invention task. ADHD participants were also less likely to create imaginary fruits that resembled typical Earth fruit, compared to non-ADHD participants. Students with ADHD were less likely to conform to pre-existing prototypes of fruit and therefore invented more original creations.

Individuals with ADHD may be more flexible in tasks which require creating something new, and less likely to rely on examples and previous knowledge. As a result, the creative products of individuals with ADHD may be more innovative, relative to creations of non-ADHD peers. 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response:  ADHD may offer an edge when the goal is to create or invent something new without being overly constrained by old models or conventions. This has implications for creative design and problem solving in the real world; the innovative and original thinking style of adults with ADHD may be advantageous in fields such as marketing or technology, which value non-traditional innovation.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response:  Future research might explore the potential contribution of the chaotic ADHD mind in the workplace. Studies show that creativity of individuals may boost the creativity of an organization when company leaders support a culture of innovation (i.e., when people are rewarded for questioning assumptions and exploring new approaches). Some of the most innovative companies actively encourage their employees to think in new and unconventional ways.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Individuals with ADHD think differently from people without ADHD; the relative advantages and disadvantages of ADHD thinking are context-dependent. For instance, ADHD may pose a limitation for completing routine tasks that require high level of attention to detail; yet for other tasks, such as those which are more stimulating or require thinking in unique ways- ADHD is likely to be an asset.  Given the limitations of having a distractible mind, a person with ADHD is more likely to thrive in an environment that provides the structure and support which are essential for success.


Thinking “Outside the Box”: Unconstrained Creative Generation in Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Holly A. White
First published: 30 September 2018

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Oct 11, 2018 @ 9:58 pm




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