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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 April 8, 2020

11 Things Overachievers Do Differently

11 Things Overachievers Do Differently

We all know some overachievers: supermoms who manage to get online degrees between cleaning, cooking, and taking kids to practice; students who write 10-page papers when the directions call for 4; managers whose resumes look more like pages from the Guinness book of Records.

How do they do it all? How is it possible that one person can graduate at the top of their class, found an orphanage in India, run 30k marathons, write a best-selling book, travel all over the world and learn to speak Mandarin Chinese while having a full-time job?

What’s the secret of an overachiever? Here’re 11 things overachievers do differently that you can learn from.

1. They Know How to Manage Their Time

It’s pretty simple actually – you can never become an overachiever if you don’t know how to organize your time efficiently.

The great thing is that overachievers are ready to share their knowledge and time management talent with the rest of the world. Read The 4-Hour Workweek or The 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

2. They Don’t Spend Hours Watching TV or Playing Computer Games

Mostly because they have better things to do, like exercising, reading, spending an evening with their family or volunteering to work in the local soup kitchen. Their philosophy is simple – the world is full of wonderful things to try, explore and experience. Watching TV is not one of them.

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3. They Are Obsessed With Perfection

Imagine Steve Jobs’ work approach and you’ll understand the level of perfection and painfully high standards that overachievers set for themselves and those around them. Often it pays off (especially if they focus on just one domain). But sometimes compulsive over-striving turns into a sure-fire road to disappointments and unfinished tasks.

Learn how to strike a balance: How Not to Let Perfectionism Secretly Screw You Up

4. They Know How To Inspire

Overachievers learn quickly that it is much easier to achieve goals through collaboration (and especially delegation). So they know how to inspire, encourage, persuade and motivate people around them. Even though they often drive their team crazy with their stubbornness and perfectionism, people quickly follow under the spell of their enthusiasm and greater vision.

Learn these 10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively.

5. They Set Clear Goals

The term “overachiever” itself implies that they know how to achieve goals. That is kind of hard to do if your goals are vague, unclear and lack specific deadline, which is why overachievers educate themselves, read goal-setting books, and think about the best way to approach a new task.

Although, it’s worth mentioning that overachievers usually use their time management and goal-setting skills towards competitive, “I want to kick butt” type of goals rather than self-improvement, mastery goals.

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Take a look at these tips to help you set clearer goals: What Are SMART Goals (And How to Use Them to Become Successful)

6. They Are Organized

It’s hard to imagine a disorganized overachiever, isn’t it? Their great organizational and planning skills usually serve three main purposes: keeping track of time, keeping track of progress and keeping track of achievements.

This hasn’t been confirmed by scientific research yet, but overachievers might actually get a “runner’s high” from crossing tasks off their to-do lists, and making new to-do lists.

Here’s How to Organize Your Life: 10 Habits of Really Organized People

7. They Try to Avoid Failure at All Costs

Some psychologists believe that overachievers place their self-worth on their competence, driven by an underlying fear of failure. Rather than setting and striving for goals based on a pure desire to achieve, their core motivation becomes avoiding failure. This may explain the fact that overachiever beat themselves up for even little setbacks and seemingly-insignificant mistakes.

But be aware that having a strong fear of failure can wrek havoc your productivity. So the best thing to do? Learn to conquer the fear: Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Conquer It)

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8. They Love Awards

Who doesn’t love them, right? True enough, but unlike most people who like to feel acknowledged and appreciated for their efforts, overachievers are bent on collecting ‘awards’, be it university degrees, spelling bee prizes or unusual destinations.

While loving awares isn’t bad, it’s even better if you’re driven by internal motivation instead of external ones which could be quite uncontrolable or unstable: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It).

9. They Don’t Understand the Concept of Work Hours

Don’t get surprised if you receive a work-related email anywhere between 8 p.m. and midnight. It’s something overachievers usually do and you weren’t the only one. At least 20 more emails have been sent during these hours to other people. The concepts of over-achieving and working overtime usually go hand in hand.

The downside of this is an imbalnced life, which may need to problems in other aspects of life including health and relationships. A better way is to Achieve a Realistic Work Life Balance.

10. They Rest

Overachievers might often be labeled as “workaholics”, because they often ignore bodily signs of hunger, fatigue and even a full bladder, hoping to finish just one last little part. This doesn’t mean that overachievers don’t know how to disconnect and relax.

True that they tend to work in the highest gear, but they also have enough sense to give themselves time to rest and recharge. Of course, they do it in their own overachieving way, preferring climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or hiking through the Amazon jungle to lazing on the beach.

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11. Overachievers Continuously Educate Themselves

A great quality that most overachievers have is the hunger for knowledge. They surround themselves with bright people. They know how to listen, and most importantly, they get tons of mentoring.

Despite the fact that overachievers want to excel at everything they set their minds on, they are humble enough to admit that to get on top of their game, they need help. And they are willing to pay someone to push, coach and guide them.

You too can learn How to Create a Habit of Continuous Learning for a Better You.

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Featured photo credit: Nghia Le via unsplash.com

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