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Creativity and Invention

Are tomorrow’s inventors, researchers, entrepreneurs, writers and artists being diagnosed with a brain defect because of their temperamental differences? There IS a connection between ADD and creativity. I believe that the ADD temperament occurs in our population because it enhances creativity and inventiveness, and thus increases our ability to adapt in a changing world.


Mozart, now thought to have been extremely ADHD, described how ideas came to him:“When I feel well and in a good humor, or when I am taking a drive or walking after a good meal, or in the night when I cannot sleep, thoughts crowd into my mind as easily as you could wish. Whence and how do they come? I do not know and I have nothing to do with it. Those which please me, I keep in my head and hum them; at least others have told me that I do so…Then my soul is on fire with inspiration, if however nothing occurs to distract my attention.”


In her paper The Coincidence of ADHD and Creativity, Dr. Bonnie Cramond compares the traits and brain differences of highly creative people to people with ADHD, and seems struck by the parallels. Read that page, it’s a good one. I’m sure ADD w/o hyperactivity is also associated with creativity, it simply is less studied. She even notes that mild damage to the forebrain is known is increase creativity in some instances. It also is known to result in ADHD behavior.  Could it be that the ability to focus on dull, routine tasks all day long thwarts inventiveness and originality? Is there a tradeoff? I think so.

add_crea.gif (5297 bytes)Now ask yourself this: Would you rather have the ability to focus on really boring things all day long OR would you rather be an original thinker? Choose only one, because that’s the way nature works. Specialization. And let’s dispel the notion that a brain which can focus on dull things for a long time is more advanced! Bees can do that! What separates humans from the other animals? A long attention span? I don’t think so. How about the ability to ponder; to ask why; to invent and be creative; to imagine the future and all its possibilities? These are ADD traits.

BEYOND.GIF (8227 bytes)Thom Hartmann has a theory about ADDers being “Hunters” in a “Farmers” world. It’s very popular, and I highly recommend any of Hartmann’s books, especially “Beyond ADD.” Hunters are essentially throw-backs to a time when a completely different type of temperament was needed for hunting. I like to think of myself as a Hunter when I’m hiking. But I also have a problem with the concept of relic genes, for a few reasons. First, relic genes are uncommon. Second, there’s such an obvious advantage to a population which has a minority of creative people. And one last minor point: It doesn’t explain women with ADD, since women have never needed an ADD temperament for hunting. They’ve always needed to focus on mundane chores like gathering roots and berries, sewing, and taking care of children.

I believe that ADD may have been more prevalent in the past, because I can picture longer attention spans becoming more important since the agricultural revolution. However, I think the current ratio of ADD (about 5%) is most likely the optimal frequency for ADD in modern humans. And the reason is creativity. If you’d like to read more about evolution and creativity, click to my original article: Born to Explore! Evolution, Creativity and ADD (not quite a relic). Evolutionary hint: The population that invents the most deadly weapons gets to wipe out its neighbors. Which population is most likely to invent new things?