Adults with ADHD are Divergent Thinkers

This study took 90 college students, all with similar (and reasonably high) academic achievements, half who had a ADHD diagnosis, and half who didn’t. They did two common ADHD tests on all participants, the Current Symptoms Scale and Childhood Symptoms Scale and  the BAADS tests. They exluded those with an ADHD test that didn’t fit those two scales, and also excluded those without a diagnosis who did fit the scales. Those in the ADHD group all were not currently taking medication.

It is thought that two facets of creativity are convergent thinking which is the ability to form associations between disparate concepts, and divergent thinking which is the ability to generate multiple ideas or solutions to a problem.

In this test, the students with ADHD did worse on the convergent thinking tasks, but better on the divergent thinking task.

In the divergent thinking test, participants did the UUT (Unusual Uses Test) and had to think of multiple uses for an object, (eg a brick or bucket). The test measured their responses for fluency, flexibility and originality. The quantitative analysis showed better performance in this task, but the researches also commented on the very cool qualitative differences too. Typical responses from all participants for brick were “building a house” and “bulding a wall”, but some responses by the ADHD participants included “crush to make lipstick”, “use as a pencil holder” and “write on surfaces like concrete”.

In the convergent thinkers test, participants did the RAT (Remote Associates Test) had to understand 18 word trios (e.g. mines, lick, and sprinkle) and then to generate a word that relates to all three words in the set (e.g. salt). Participants had 5 minutes to complete the test and were given scores for each correct answer. The study didn’t really go into this – but immediately I would wonder who decided what was a correct answer? Perhaps the ADHD were applying their badass divergent thinking skills to this test, and in fact the test itself rewards less creative answers?

Finally there was a semantic IOR test, which aims to measure executive inhibition, which basically means that they had to look at a computer screen, where words were flashed up (e.g. tiger) to determine a category, and then other words are flashed up (e.g. pen, lion or ilon) and participants needed to press a button if they were associated or not, points were allocated for correct answers and response time. Both groups had mainly correct answers, so these weren’t analysed, but non-ADHD students were faster.

So what?… Divergent thinking is cool, and people with ADHD are good at it – yay!

White, H. A. & Shah, P., 2006. Uninhibited imaginations: Creativity in adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 40, pp. 1121-1131.

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