Adults with attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are likely to excel at creative work-related tasks, according to a new study at the University of Michigan (U-M). The findings show that those with ADHD are more flexible in tasks that require inventing something totally new and less likely to rely on examples and previous knowledge.
Study author Dr. Holly White, a researcher in the U-M Department of Psychology, said many individuals with ADHD are inclined to resist conformity and the usual way of doing things, and this can work to their advantage in fields that value innovative and nontraditional approaches such as marketing, product design, technology and computer engineering.
The study compared a group of college students with ADHD to those without the disorder on tasks of creativity. The imagination task, called the “alien fruit” invention task, involved creating an example of a fictional fruit that might exist on another planet but is different from a fruit known to exist on Earth.
In doing this task, non-ADHD participants often modeled their creations after specific common fruits, such as an apple or strawberry. Those creations were less innovative, said White. Participants with ADHD, on the other hand, were more likely to create totally original alien fruits that differed significantly from typical fruits on Earth.
The second task required participants to create labels for new products in three categories without copying the examples provided. The ADHD group created labels that were more unique and less similar to the examples provided, compared to the non-ADHD group.
Read our exclusive interview with Dr. Holly White about the results of this study.
White said the findings suggest that people with ADHD may be more flexible in tasks that require creating something new, and less likely to rely on examples and previous knowledge.
“As a result, the creative products of individuals with ADHD may be more innovative, relative to creations of non-ADHD peers,” she said.
People with ADHD may be less prone to “design fixation,” which is the tendency to get stuck in a rut or stick closely to what already exists when creating a new product, White said.
“This has implications for creative design and problem solving in the real world, when the goal is to create or invent something new without being overly constrained by old models or ways of doing things,” she said.
ADHD, commonly diagnosed during childhood, is a brain disorder characterized by an ongoing pattern of inattention, hyperactivity and/or impulsivity that interferes with functioning and development.
The findings appear in the Journal of Creative Behavior.
Source: University of Michigan