Study Finds Link Between Autism And Creative Thinking

Autism research tends to focus on the negative traits associated with the disorder, such as social and language difficulties, and what they portend for children.

But a preliminary new study released Friday highlights a potential upside, concluding that people with high levels of autistic traits may be more likely to produce truly original, creative ideas.

“It’s important to recognize the strengths of people with autism spectrum disorders, as well as their difficulties,” Dr. Martin Doherty, a senior lecturer in psychology with the University of East Anglia in the U.K. and an author on the new study told The Huffington Post. “Highly unusual creative problem solving appears to be another strength that parents, educators and employers should be aware of.”

In the study, published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, roughly 300 adult men and women took an online questionnaire that measured autism-like traits. (Notably, only one quarter of the respondents had ever received an actual diagnosis of autism.)

They then engaged in a series of tests designed to measure creative thinking.

In one test, participants were given a minute to list as many alternate uses for a brick or paper clip as they could. They were rated on how many uses they came up with, as well as how unusual and elaborate their answers were. Alternate uses for the objects were considered unusual if they were given by less than 5 percent of the respondents.

Respondents who provided four or more unusual answers were generally found to have higher levels of traits associated with autism, suggesting there is a link between autism (or, at least many of the traits associated with autism) and creative thinking.

In a second test, participants were shown four abstract drawings and asked to come up with as many interpretations as they could in one —> Read More