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Creativity Appears an Upside to ADHD

A new study in the April 2011 issue of Journal of Personality and Individual Differences found that adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) enjoyed more creative achievement than those who didn't have the disorder. "For the same reason that ADHD might create problems, like distraction, it can also allow an openness to new ideas," said Dr. Holly White, assistant professor of cognitive psychology at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, and co-author of the paper. "Not being completely focused on a task lets the mind make associations that might not have happened otherwise." Dr. White and Dr. Priti Shah at the University of Michigan gave 60 college students – half of them with ADHD – a series of tests measuring creativity across 10 domains. The ADHD group scored higher across the board. The ADHD group showed more of a preference for brainstorming and generating ideas than the non-ADHD group, which preferred refining and clarifying ideas. The study is a follow-up to one done in 2006, which focused on laboratory measures of creativity and found that ADHD individuals show better performance on tests of creative divergent thinking. "We didn't know if that would translate into real-life achievement," said Dr. Shah. "The current study suggests that it does." [Press release] [Journal of Personality and Individual Differences abstract]