“A highly original person may seem unusual or strange to others”. – Neuroscientist Nancy C. Andreason.
Creativity is defined as “the ability to make new things” or think of “new ideas.” The ability to do both these requires original thinking and drawing from past experiences, abilities, and skills.
Creativity is not reserved for the artists; the painters, the authors, and the writers. Everyone is creative in their own way. As Tyler Tervooren explains “Creativity is all around us but, for so many, it remains invisible—hidden in plain sight—because we’ve conditioned ourselves to look for it in only a few places. There are so many places you can draw new ideas from to improve your work if you look just a little harder. “
But why are some people more creative than others? The concept of latent inhibition is used to explain this.
Latent Inhibition and why we are creative
“Latent inhibition is a term used to explain how our observation of a familiar stimulus (e.g. something we have seen or heard before) takes longer to acquire meaning than a new stimulus” – Low Latent Inhibition.
For example, consider how we observe a doorknob. We know it’s purpose. It’s there to help us open a door. We don’t give it much notice. This makes sense as we see it every day. We open a lot of doors every day. Consequently, our brains apply the same rules to all doorknobs (and all new stimuli). If we were to analyze each and every doorknob, looking at finer details and questioning why it was chosen, our brains would be overloaded. Our brains would not be able to cope.
We then, filter out information to experience the world in a manageable way. It keeps us sane. The majority of us have a strong filter to keep out irrelevant information. The more creative individuals, however, have a lower filter or low latent inhibition. In a 2003 study, Shelley Carson found that eminent creative achievers were seven times more likely to have low rather than high latent intelligence scores.
Carson gives this example for low latent inhibitions in action: “A person with low latent inhibitions would not only see a yellow desk lamp, they may also think of bananas, Spongebob Squarepants, or Spongebob Squarepants eating a banana, or possibly concoct a whole dissertation in their head about whether or not Spongebob likes to eat bananas, or how he could get them down in the ocean”.
Many creatives fail to ignore information that generally would be irrelevant. This is known as cognitive disinhibition. Their creative brain is geared toward information absorbing a lot if information. And whilst this can be stifling, it can also be the perfect recipe for creative genius.
How creativity and weirdness are linked
Weirdness is such a relative word. My weird will not be your weird. The same principles apply to beauty, love and other abstract constructs, like creativity.
Looking at the definition of weird, words such as “unusual” or “strange” are mentioned. Elaborating, someone who thinks unconventionally sees the world differently and does not fit within the box of what is considered “normal” is weird. Such individuals are unique. They are original. They disturb the status quo.
The common theme that binds weirdness and creativity is originality. Both fall outside the normal spectrum of what is considered normal. If there is a link between low latent inhibition and creativity, and there is also a link between creativity and weirdness through originality, then it follows that low latent inhibition is linked to weirdness through creativity. Weird people are creative through low latent inhibition. What do you think?
Featured photo credit: Terry Presley via flickr.com