Creative Minds are More Eccentric

From Scientific American Mind and Dr. Shelley Carson: "The incidence of strange behavior by highly creative individuals seems too extensive to be the result of mere coincidence. As far back as ancient Greece, both Plato and Aristotle made comments about the peculiar behavior of poets and playwrights...Albert Einstein picked up cigarette butts off the street to get tobacco for his pipe; Howard Hughes spent entire days on a chair in the middle of the supposedly germ-free zone of his Beverly Hills Hotel suite; the composer Robert Schumann believed that his musical compositions were dictated to him by Beethoven and other deceased luminaries from their tombs; and Charles Dickens is said to have fended off imaginary urchins with his umbrella as he walked the streets of London. More recently, we have seen Michael Jackson’s preoccupation with rhinoplasty, Salvador Dalí’s affection for dangerous pets and the Icelandic singer Björk dressed for the Oscars as a swan."

The biology discussed in the article mentions several interesting and different lines of research - some of the research involving diffuse attention and lifetime creative achievement, but also 'inner world' thinking she relates to cognitive filtering:

"Reduced cognitive filtering could explain the tendency of highly creative people to focus intensely on the content of their inner world at the expense of social or even self-care needs. (Beethoven, for example, had difficulty tending to his own cleanliness.) When conscious awareness is overpopulated with unusual and unfiltered stimuli, it is difficult not to focus attention on that inner universe."

Almost sounds like sensory processing dysfunction. Children and adults with sensory processing overload may seem oblivious to social or self-care needs, but they are often very sensitive to other stimuli or experiences. In truth, there are a great deal of overlaps between sensory processing checklists and checkslists for Dabrowski's Over-excitabilities.

Other biological studies mentioned in the article were were EEG studies which found more alpha waves among the highly creative, and schizotypal and D2 receptor studies which also raise associations with psychosis and ADD.

The article ends on kind of an upbeat suggesting that "the plight of square pegs may be improving." At least creativity seems to be sought-after in the business world. Now if only the same could be true in schools (for more on this, see Creativity Asset or Burden in the Classroom?)


  1. Psychologist Robert Ornstein, PhD, author of The Psychology of Consciousness, commented, “If you spend too much time being like everybody else, you decrease your chances of coming up with something different.”
    From my Creative Mind blog post The Creative Potential of Eccentricity

  2. I am my avatar.

    Me said to iself, "Moi..."

  3. Your entire blog reminds me of my 21-year-old son. He is so incredibly intelligent and yet so incredibly inept at day-to-day living. There are times I despair of the kid. I wonder how on earth he's ever going to make it out there. He will literally forget to eat in his pursuit of drawing. We homeschooled him until grade 8 when I finally said, "Everything you've learned well, you've taught yourself, so you can just take over from here." After doing just that (and taking a GED course in math which he hates) he passed his GED in the top 2% of the provinces graduates. This was with little to no effort at all except in math. He was then accepted into a US animation college. He is on Paxil for OCD (does it have anything to do with this?). His WISC puts him in the superior to very superior range on many things, but his processing speeds were horrifically slow.

    Anyway, thanks so much for this blog. It helps me to understood this wonderful fellow of mine, and hopefully help him to help himself. Cheers!