A great deal of the information about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder focuses on the problems people with ADHD have accomplishing tasks and meeting goals, but a newly published study suggests that plugging into their more creative side may have positive results.
Young adults with ADHD showed more creativity compared to those without the disorder, according to researchers at the University of Michigan and Eckerd College.
They found that ADHD individuals preferred different thinking styles. They like generating ideas, but are not good about completing the tasks.
Lead author Holly White, an assistant professor of psychology at Eckerd, and Priti Shah, an associate professor at U-M, replicated a study they did in 2006 which found that ADHD individuals show better performance on standardized creativity tests.
In the past, research was focused on how well individuals with ADHD did on standard laboratory measures of creativity.
Shah said that while they knew people with ADHD did better in the lab with divergent thinking, they were not at all sure if that would translate to real-life achievement. “The current study suggests that it does,” Shah said.
Divergent thinking involves generating several possible solutions to a problem. Some people can only see a straight path or a single route to a solution or goal, people with ADHD, however, often see lots of different ways to get to the same point.
ADHD is neuropsychological disorder that involves inattentiveness, impulsiveness and hyperactivity. Most individuals get the disorder in childhood and it persists into adulthood. It has impaired the person’s ability to adjust academically and socially.
Sixty college students (half with ADHD) completed a questionnaire about their level of achievement regarding creativity in 10 areas, such as humor, music, visual arts, culinary arts, invention and writing. Those with ADHD scored higher than individuals who didn’t have the disorder.
Another questionnaire assessed the respondents’ preferred creative style: clarifier, who defines and structures the problem; ideator, who like to generate ideas; developers, who elaborate or refine ideas and solutions; and implementers, who incorporate a refined idea into a final product or solution.
Non-ADHD participants preferred problem clarification and idea development. ADHD individuals liked the ideator style.
Knowing the creative style can help identify careers suited to the strengths and weaknesses of individuals with ADHD, the researchers said.
Researchers also note that their results could be partially attributed to testing college students, who may be a uniquely motivated and successful population with ADHD. They did, however, ensure that the ADHD and non-ADHD participants in the sample were similar in academic achievement. Individuals who are not succeeding as well academically may benefit from understanding that there may be tradeoffs associated with ADHD. With extra motivation to overcome difficulties in planning, attention, and impulsivity, they may be able to take greater advantage of their creative strengths, Shah said.
The findings appear in the current issue of Personality and Individual Differences.