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People With Autism Are More Creative, Research Finds

People With Autism Are More Creative, Research Finds

People with autism exemplify more creativity when answering with alternative solutions to a problem.

This finding resulted from a recent study of 312 people who took a questionnaire to measure their autistic traits and participated in creativity tests.

Published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, the research examines people who may not have a diagnosis of autism, but have significant levels of behavior and thought processes normally correlated with the condition.

“People with autistic traits may approach creativity problems in a different way,” said Dr. Doherty, co-author of the study. “They might not run through things in the same way as someone without these traits would to get the typical ideas, but go directly to less common ones. In other words, the associative or memory-based route to being able to think of different ideas is impaired, whereas the specific ability to produce unusual responses is relatively unimpaired or superior.”

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To test participants’ creative thinking, they were asked to provide as many alternative uses as possible for a brick or a paper clip. These responses were rated for quantity, complexity and uniqueness. People who provided four or more unique answers were found to have higher levels of autistic traits.

To understand how they derived these unique answers, let’s take look at what exactly gives people with autism their creative edge.

1. They use cognitively demanding strategies to solve problems

Dr. Doherty mentions that similar studies have found that most people first use simple and easy strategies to answer problems, one example being word association. By taking the more complex and cognitively demanding route, people with autism find themselves examining problems from a new perspective. And this allows them to see answers that may just be hidden gems.

We sometimes find ourselves trying to take the fastest path to solving life’s biggest problems when the truth is that they are often more complex than we realize and require a more intricate approach.

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2. They care less of what others think of them

According to Autism Speaks, people with autism have fewer boundaries when it comes to falling in line with the social norm. This leaves significant room for them to think more openly and, therefore, more creatively.

Many of us fall in line when it comes to keeping our thinking within social boundaries; imagine what would happen if they were removed even for just a small amount of time.

3. They listen in a nonjudgmental way

Jolanta Lasota, chief executive of the charity Ambitious about Autism said, “There are many misconceptions and myths about autism, the biggest one including being antisocial and having a lack of empathy.”

Because people with autism are less judgmental and think more logically, they can break down problems without letting their emotions take over. This gives them the ability to have unique insight into complex issues.

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4. They pay attention to fine detail

A great quote about people with autism that pay close attention to fine detail comes from Ellen Notbohm, author of Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew:

“Patience. Patience. Patience. Work to view my autism as a different ability rather than a disability. Look past what you may see as limitations and see the gifts autism has given me…Also true that I probably won’t be the next Michael Jordan. But with my attention to fine detail and capacity for extraordinary focus, I might be the next Einstein. Or Mozart. Or Van Gogh.”

How many times do we find ourselves scatterbrained and wishing we could focus for just 10 minutes? It happens all the time. If we had an endless supply of concentration, imagine the creativity that would blossom.

Autism has become more prevalent, as it has seen steady growth over the last 20 years. It now affects one in 68 children, and is four times as likely to affect boys. Moreover, one of the larger obstacles is that approximately 40% of children with autism do not even speak.

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The good news is that this new study provides momentum for the case that people with autism deserve a better opportunity in the workforce. Recent data shows that 85% of people with autism are not full-time paid employees, and 79% of them would like to be.

A few well-known people who have autism include: James Durbin, the American Idol alum who recently released his new single, “Parachute;” Alexis Wineman, who won Miss Montana and became the first Miss America pageant contestant with autism; Dan Aykroyd, who is a famous actor and writer notable for his role in Ghostbusters.

Remember, autism is not a disease nor an intellectual disability; it’s simply a condition.

It’s evident that there’s still a tough road ahead for creating opportunities for people who have autism. The first step is looking at them as people first and not through the lens of disability, and we are getting closer to doing that each day.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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