Easily Distracted? You Might Be A Creative Genius!

A study from Northwestern University suggests that if you find yourself struggling to shut out distractions, it may be a sign of creative brilliance. Is that not the most validating information you’ve heard in years? According to Science Daily, the findings provide “the first physiological evidence that real-world creativity may be associated with a reduced ability to filter ‘irrelevant’ sensory information.” I take that to mean that highly creative people are more likely to notice the details that others might ignore. In fact, maybe this whole “inability to focus” nonsense is just bad PR for the habits of a highly talented mind. I’m going to go with that because, well, it makes me feel better about myself (and humanity in general).

The study included about 100 participants who reported their real-world creative achievements to the researchers through a questionnaire. Participants also took a test of divergent thinking, which is a scientific way to gauge creative thinking. (I will refrain from being the annoying tree-hugger who objects, “but can creativity really be quantified!?” Alas, apparently it can.) In relation to these two factors in the subjects’ creativity, scientists studied neural markers of sensory gating, which is the response that occurs 50 milliseconds after a stimulus makes itself known to us.

Subjects who did well on their divergent thinking tests (and thus are creative on paper) were more likely to be skilled at filtering out distractions. Those with significant creative achievements in the real world, however, had “leaky sensory processing” — they weren’t as good at ignoring irrelevant stimuli or distractions. The researchers aren’t yet sure whether this is a constant trait or something achievers can vary based on the task at hand, but we do know that those with “leaky” minds are thought to be great at putting new ideas together that are normally outside of their line of thinking and able to take on a broader range of focus. If you have a tendency to feel overstimulated or bombarded by your surroundings, or if small background noises tend to worm their way into your brain until you can’t think straight, I’d venture that you might have a leaky brain. Concentration may be harder to come by for you than others, but the good news is that, as the study’s lead author Darya Zabelina told Science Daily, “If funneled in the right direction, these sensitivities can make life more rich and meaningful, giving experiences more subtlety.” Essentially, you’re hardwired to be better at stopping and smelling the roses, and according to the study’s authors, you share this trait with Marcel Prous, Franz Kafka, Charles Darwin and other great achievers. It’s probably not ideal to proudly pull out an “I’m leaky!” on a first date or at a party, because people might take that phrase to mean something very different, but by all accounts, it’s an amazing way to be. [Science Daily] [Image via Shutterstock]