Autism Spurs Creative Thinking

Inventive Minds at Work




The UK’s University of East Anglia and the University of Stirling conducted a study of individuals with autistic traits among 312 people recruited through social media, including 75 diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder. Each of the subjects completed a series of creativity tests in which they determined uses of mundane objects.

Published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, the study found that while the autistic people chose fewer uses for each object, their choices were significantly more original and creative. The subjects developed a greater range of “divergent thinking”.

Martin Doherty, Ph.D., co-author of the study, confirms, “People with high autistic traits can have less quantity, but greater quality of creative ideas. They are typically considered to be more rigid in their thinking, so the fact that the ideas they have are more unusual or rare is surprising. This difference may have positive implications for creative problem solving.”

The researchers found that while the average person will utilize simple mental strategies to produce more obvious answers first, autistic people tend to first utilize more demanding strategies during their processing, thus producing the more creative result.

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