WARNING: This post is NOT to say that everyone who is creative is strange or suffers neurological deficiencies/abnormalities. It was just something I found interesting…

Have you ever noticed how the average artist is a bit “unusual”? I’ve met my fair share of authors, illustrators, and creative types in my life, and I have to say that the more creative they are, the more “odd” they seem.

According to a new study, “people with high levels of autistic traits are more likely to produce unusually creative ideas”.

Published on Science Daily, the study examined people with high degrees of thought processes and behaviors commonly associated with autism. Not all the participants were diagnosed as being autistic, but they had similar traits.

The study proved something fascinating: those with high autistic traits found more ORIGINAL and CREATIVE solutions to presented problems. They came up with fewer problem-solving responses or options, but those few they did come up with were far more unique and creative than their neurotypical counterparts. Their “divergent thinking” helped them find new ways to solve common problems!

For example, “To test their divergent thinking participants were asked to provide as many alternative uses as they could for a brick or a paper clip. Their responses were then rated for quantity, elaborateness and unusualness. People who generated four or more unusual responses in the task were found to have higher levels of autistic traits.

Some of the more creative uses given for a paper clip were: as a weight on a paper airplane; as wire to support cut flowers; counter/token for game/gambling; as a light duty spring. Common ones included: hook; pin; to clean small grooves; make jewellery.

Participants were also shown four abstract drawings and asked to provide as many interpretations as they could for each figure in one minute. The higher the number of ideas produced, the lower the participant’s level of autistic traits tended to be.”

(Source material: Science Daily)

Basically, people with autism or autistic traits approach problems in a different way than neurotypical people. They don’t use the “normal” ideas. They have a harder time using “common” problem-solving methods or remembering things that worked in the past, so they have to produce an unusual, original response. Their ability to produce those unusual responses is often superior to neurotypical people.

As an author with autistic tendencies, I find it fascinating to realize that my brain is creative in a totally new way. Instead of taking a common approach to the problems I put my characters through, I find fewer solutions, but the ones I do find tend to be more unique and original.

Perhaps that is why so many authors and other artists seem a bit “unusual”–perhaps they really are! It would be interesting to find out how many of the famous artists today have autistic traits, behavior, and reactions. The number might be A LOT higher than we’d think…