Monday, 1 October 2007

Genius and Madness

From Science Daily:
Psychologists from the University of Toronto and Harvard University have identified one of the biological bases of creativity.

The study in the September issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology says the brains of creative people appear to be more open to incoming stimuli from the surrounding environment. Other people's brains might shut out this same information through a process called "latent inhibition" - defined as an animal's unconscious capacity to ignore stimuli that experience has shown are irrelevant to its needs. Through psychological testing, the researchers showed that creative individuals are much more likely to have low levels of latent inhibition.

"This means that creative individuals remain in contact with the extra information constantly streaming in from the environment," says co-author and U of T psychology professor Jordan Peterson. "The normal person classifies an object, and then forgets about it, even though that object is much more complex and interesting than he or she thinks. The creative person, by contrast, is always open to new possibilities."

Previously, scientists have associated failure to screen out stimuli with psychosis.
The authors hypothesize that latent inhibition may be positive when combined with high intelligence and good working memory - the capacity to think about many things at once - but negative otherwise.
"Scientists have wondered for a long time why madness and creativity seem linked," says Carson. "It appears likely that low levels of latent inhibition and exceptional flexibility in thought might predispose to mental illness under some conditions and to creative accomplishment under others."

That might explain why those that survive being TS tend to be both hyper-intelligent and also hyper-creative. Being TS, having a brain neither entirely M nor F - likely leads to creativity, being open to stimuli others filter out. But unless the person is also unusually bright, it may lead to insanity too. Only the bright don't kill themselves, and the stratospherically high TS suicide rate would certainly fit in with that. So the mystery of the evidenced 2 standard deviation increase in IQ isn't caused by some weird neurology, as the creativity seems to be. It's possibly a result of Natural Selection, not Natural Talent.

Call it Evolution in Action.

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