Psychologists Dig Into Link Between Autism And Creativity

A fascinating paradox lies at the heart of autism: While rigid thinking is considered a key aspect of the condition, many people with autism display exceptional creativity.

Now, a study published last week in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders offers an explanation for this seeming contradiction, finding a correlation between autistic traits and an unusual creative-thinking process.

“People with high autistic traits seem more likely to ‘think outside the box,'” Dr. Martin Doherty, a psychologist at England’s University of East Anglia and the study’s lead author, told The Huffington Post in an email.

Conducted by psychologists from East Anglia and University of Stirling in Scotland, the research shows that while most people engage in a fairly predictable creative problem-solving process, individuals with autism circumvent these modes of thought in favor of strategies that generate fewer, but more original, ideas.

Seeing Things In A Different Light

The researchers recruited 312 participants for the study, 75 of whom had been diagnosed with autism, and a number of whom possessed some autistic traits but no official diagnosis.

The participants took the Alternate Uses Test, in which they were asked to think of possible uses for an everyday item like a brick or a paper clip. The test is commonly used to measure divergent thinking, a thinking style in which creative ideas are generated through the exploration of as many as possible solutions to a single problem.

Their answers were rated based on uniqueness, elaborateness and quantity.

In line with previous research showing that people with autism tend to score lower on tests of divergent thinking, the researchers found the participants with autism tended to come up with fewer responses. However, the responses they did come up with were considerably more unusual, and tended to bypass —> Read More