"Robert Frost was dropped from school for what we call daydreaming; during some of his lapses from attention he was probably revolving a poem in his mind." --Paul Torrance
"Yet, creative people are described as having a broad range of interests and showing a tendency to play with ideas, sometimes losing interest in one to take up another. A famous example of this is Leonardo da Vinci. Although known for his painting, there are only 17 paintings that can be attributed to his 67 years as an artist, and some of these are incomplete."--Bonnie Cramond

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Current State of Affairs
In the field of medical psychology, ADHD is viewed as a dysfunctional condition that ought to be treated. Children with ADHD are characterized as readily distractable, quickly shifts activities, and failing to finish things (Lahey et al., 1988). None of these characterizations have positive connotations to them. This negative view is implied in the name of the condition itself—that it is a disorder. Historically, the American Psychological Association had made changes to the definition of various disorders overtime and how symptoms of these disorders, often depending on power structures at the time (Meents, 1989).

Foucault mentions in The History of Madness, that the “mad” are deemed psychologically ill in part because society has difficulty finding productive use of them (Foucault, 2006). If you look in the DSM, ability to function and be productive to society determines what the “mental disorders” are.

Neurodiversity argues that some of the "disorders" listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders actually involves different but otherwise generally healthy brain structures that deviate from the norm, and that they may be perceived as dysfunctional conditions because society as it is structured is created for neurotypical people (Baker, 2011). If it can be found that the ADHD brain is wired so that it is advantageous for creativity, this piece of knowledge will be a valuable source of self-esteem for individuals with ADHD. It will also be valuable because resources can then be geared towards setting ADHD children on a path in life that would capitalize on their strengths rather than one which is focused merely attenuating their weaknesses.

This shift in view of ADHD may have important consequences for the self-concept of individuals, particularly children with ADHD, who may view their condition as an “Other” devaluated by society. They can see the benefit to the unique way their brains are wired. This shift may also influence the treatment of ADHD, since one of the primary goals of treatment is to eliminate distraction.

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The Weekend Dosing Dilemma

Singh (2005) interviewed mothers and fathers. Their narrative seems to suggest that part of the reason they medicate their children is their fear that without treating their children, they would not meet society’s expectations that they are “accomplished, independent, and self-reliant” from an early age. Clinicians tell parents to decide on a day-to-day basis when to medicate child. This may even cause weekend dosing dilemmas; though the child is off from school, the parent may want to medicate the child on weekends. Parents can pressure their children to concentrate on “the seriousness of building a future rather than the frivolous pursuits of the afternoon” (Kindlon and Thompson 1999). Krautkramer (2005) states that these “pursuits” can include creative activities such as making believe, an over-active imagination, and play. It is possible that medication prevents creative individuals from letting their inborn self naturally unfold overtime, and that parents may limit their unconventional thoughts and behavior since they control when their children take their medication on a day-to-day basis.

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Trait Similarities
Both groups have diverted attention, which may be seen by others as inattention, where they tune out the external environment and may hyper-focus on internal thoughts and visualizations. Both seem to possess a broad range of interests, have difficulty organizing or keeping track of things, dislike rules and limits placed by others, have high energy and activity levels, are sensation-seeking, are prone to risk taking and impulsiveness, are lacking in social graces, have drastic mood swings, and seem to be driven by a self-propelled motor (Cramond 1994, 1995). Cramond found that 26% of a sample creative adolescents self-reported clinically elevated ADHD symptomatology (Cramond, 1994).

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ADHDer's Type of Creativity
White and Shah (2011) administered the FourSight Thinking Profile to ADHD and non-ADHD individuals and found that there were differences in type of creativity these groups identified with. The ADHD group preferred the Ideator style (i.e. coming up with ideas) and the non-ADHD group preferred the Clarifier and Developer style (i.e. clarifying and developing ideas). They mentioned that the majority of studies that did not find a relationship between ADHD and creativity used nonverbal creative tests. In their own study they showed that it seemed that ADHD individuals did better than non-ADHD individuals in originality (not fluency) on verbal measures of divergent creativity. This is consistent with the idea that poor lateral inhibition and difficulties with focus may lead to more randomness in thinking and greater consideration of irrelevant information, leading to a higher level of originality.

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Creative Ability Corresponds With Cognitive Weaknesses?! What?!
Creative individuals are shown to do poorer on measures of processing speed, reaction time, and naming speed (Healey & Rucklidge, 2006). ADHD individuals show deficits in these same areas (Rucklidge & Tannock, 2002).

A study was done at Harvard to determine whether creative individuals have poor lateral inhibition (Carson et al, 2003). Lateral inhibition is the ability to filter out extraneous stimuli. Participants in the study did a task in which they put on earphone and had to identify a particular nonsense syllable among other nonsense syllables while being distracted by white noise. They took the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking and the Creative Achievement Questionnaire. When IQ is taken into account, creative individuals turned out to have decreased lateral inhibition!

It is possible that difficulties in filtering out information cause creative individuals to be open to experience and to not dismiss "irrelevant" information. Slower speed of processing and reacting may mean that creative individuals tend not to form or rely on consolidated, ready-made past associations in their mind when coming up with answers. Their need to seek out new associations leads them to have greater creativity but slower processing and reaction times.

Flow-Hyperfocus Connection?
In the book, Flow, by psychologist Csikszentmihalyi, creative individuals often experience flow. There is little to no research on whether hyper-focus in ADHD individuals constitute as flow experiences. In fact, Csikszentmihalyi mentions in his book, Flow,that inattention disorders do not bear a relationship to flow because flow experiences involve attention as a main attribute (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).

A symptom that ADHD individuals experience is hyper-focus, in which they tune out the external environment and intensely focus on their own thoughts and ideas. I believe there is a similarity between this hyper-focused state and the flow state, and thus, I believe that ADHD individuals may actually be experiencing flow when they get into hyper-focus.

What the medical diagnosis of ADHD defines as a problem of distraction, or "inattention," may actually be diverted attention (Rutter, 1989). I believe that when undergoing diverted attention, an ADHD individual removes his or her attention from the external world and gets immersed in a flow state. Thus, such a state of distraction may not necessarily be merely a negative manifestation of ADHD, but a positive one.

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I'm sooo focused. I'm hyper-focused!

Awesome Links and Videos!!!
VIDEO: ADHD linked to genius

VIDEO: Ken Robinson--ADHD or Creativity?

BLOG: I love my ADHD!


Baker, D. L. (2011). The Politics of Neurodiversity: Why Public Policy Matters. Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Carson, S. H., Peterson, J. B., & Higgins, D. M. (2003). Decreased latent inhibition is associated with increased creative achievement in high-functioning individuals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 499–506.

Cramond, B. (1994). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and creativity—What is the connection? The Journal of Creative Behavior, 28, 193–210.

Cramond, B. (1995). The Coincidence of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Creativity. Attention Deficit Disorder Research-Based Decision Making Series 9508. Storrs: The University of Connecticut.

Csíkszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, New York.

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Kindlon, D., and M. Thompson. 1999. Raising Cain: protecting the emotional lives of boys. New York:Ballantine.

Krautkramer, C. J. (2005). Beyond Creativity: ADHD Drug Therapy as a Moral Damper on a Child’s Future Success. The American Journal of Bioethics, 5, 52-53.

Lahey, B. B., Pelham, W. E., Schaughency, E. A., Atkins, M. S., Murphy, H. A., Hynd, G., Russo, M., Martdagen, S., & Lorys-Vernon, A. (1988). Dimensions and types of attention deficit disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 27, 330-335.

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Rucklidge, J. J., & Tannock, R.(2002). Neuropsychological profiles of adolescents with ADHD: Effects of reading difficulties and gender.
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Rutter, M. (1989). Attention deficit disorder/hyperkinetic syndrome: Conceptual and research issues regarding diagnosis and classification. In T. Sagvolden & T. Archer (Eds.), Attention deficit disorder: Clinical and basic research (pp. 1-24). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Singh, I. S. (2005). Will the “real boy” please behave: dosing dilemmas for Parents of Boys with ADHD. The American Journal of Bioethics, 5(3): 34-47, 2005.

Stavridou, A., & Furnham, A. (1996). The relationship between psychoticism, trait-creativity and the attentional mechanism of cognitive inhibition.
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Torrance, E. P. (1963). Education and the creative potential. Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press.

White, H. A., Shah, P. (2011). Creative style and achievement in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Personality and individual differences, 50: 673-677.