Creativity and Human Evolution

Creativity and Human Evolution

Creativity is the sole heart of modernization, technology and the arts. Without creativity, humanity would still thrive in caves. There is no argument against creativity being an important aspect of our society, there is, however, a question whether creativity is spawned by mental disorder. Albert Einstein came up with ideas that seemed impossible or eccentric. Froyd’s psychology theorems were laughed at, but now widely used and accepted. Both men were highly successful with their work. Einstein was considered a slow person and mentally incapable by his teachers. Froyd was an excellent student and was considered above average in all his school work. Both men were labeled as geniuses, and both men suffered from some kind of depression.

Dr. Arnold M. Ludwig informs us that “. . . creativity must go beyond the bounds of what already is known or deductible by reason . . . “(American Journal of Psychotherapy). It is creativity that is the soul of the inventor, painter or poet. Creativity is not equal among most people and in fact is hindered by ” . . . self-censorship, that inner voice of judgment that confines our creative spirit within the boundaries of what we deem acceptable.”(Psych Today).

Dr. Torrence, in his studies, concluded that intelligence does not have any effect on creativity and it is the thinking style that actually stimulates creativity (Journal of Personality). His tests focused on the hemispheres of the brain in which he stated that ” . . . left – hemisphere style is related to less creativity than right – hemisphere and interhemisphere styles.” (Journal of Personality). Results of Torrance’s study prompted others to reject his conclusion by maintaining that “. . . intellectual superiority is the primary determining factor in creative performance.” (Kirk & Gallager 1983).

Intelligence might not be a major factor in innovations but according to William F. Allmen of U.S. News and World Report, ” . . . history’s most creative minds clearly operate on a different plane.” It is this millennium long mindset that prompted psychologist Howard Gardner to examine, or build, a profile of a genius. In his book, Creating Minds, Gardner relates five similarities that he found while examining Sigmund Froyd, Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, Igor Stravinsky, T.S. Elliot, Martha Graham and Mahatma Gandhi. According to Gardner, a creative mind grows up in social seclusion. The upbringing of such an individual is usually middle class, where focus of life is based on hard work and high moral values. Such an individual is also known to push away friends and relatives. His work absorbs him and total focus of attention is dedicated to the ongoing project. The ‘genius’ is known to follow a ’10 year rule’, where this person is known to have”. . . two bursts of creativity.”(U.S. News and World Report). First one is very extreme, and the second is usually more socially accepted. According to Gardner a ‘genius’ is also known to have childlike perceptions on things. Taking a totally different route to solving a problem was one of the major ways Albert Einstein came up with his time and space theories.

In the 4th century B.C. Aristotle was quoted as saying, “Why is it that all men who are outstanding in philosophy, poetry or the arts are melancholic?”(New York Times, c1). Ever since then a famous anonymous quote was formed, “There is a thin line between genius and madness.” (New York Times). It is not uncommon for a creative person to suffer from different types of depressions. According to a study performed by Dr. Arnold M. Ludwig at the University of Kentucky Medical Center that “. . . looked at the incidence of psychiatric illness among 1004 eminent men and women . . . Ludwig discovered that psychiatric disturbances were far more common among the artists than among the others.” (New York Times. C8). Dr. Ludwig does not conclude that all creative people suffer from mental illness, however he does suggest that a certain correlation does exist and it cannot be ignored.

Another study performed by University of Stanford suggested an opposite conclusion to Dr. Ludwigs. The study allegedly examined over a thousand ‘geniuses’ and “. . . suggest[ed] a connection between creativity and mental health rather than mental illness”(American Journal of Psychotherapy). The same study insists that a general problem exists with the difficulty in determining the nature of creativity. Dr. Ludwing implied that creative individuals are usually more troubled than their ‘nonreactive’ counterparts but have more resources to deal with their problems (American Journal of Psychotherapy).

Reading previous studies, one could conclude two separate theories. One is that depression stimulates creativity, and the other that creativity stimulates depression. According to some current tests performed at the National Institute of Mental Health, Dr. Post and Dr. Terence Ketter used a PET, brain scanning device, to examine brain activity during mental depressions. As the volunteers were injected with a drug that stimulated mania, brain’s limbic activity increased. The limbic activity is part of the brain that is responsible for the creative side of a person. When another drug was injected that stimulated anxiety and euphoria, the limbic activity ceased. (New York Times)

Depression is known to cause sleeping disorders. There are times where an individual is overcome by sleep. It is during these times where the mind is somehow set free to ‘roam’ and new ideas form. Thomas Edison would use this hypnagogic state to think through his problems and come up with solutions. He would place two metal ball in his hands, lay back in his chair and fall asleep. As soon as he drifted into the first phase of sleep, his hand muscles gave way and the balls dropped on metal plates below. The noise would wake Thomas Edison, and instantly he would jot down the ideas that came to him (Psychology Today). Sleep is not the only way ideas come to us. Whenever we are involved in a relaxing activity such as a walk or while taking a shower, our minds envoce our limbic part of the brain. Human mind is still a mystery to us all. It is hard to conclude on what spawns creativity. Depression and intelligence seem very far apart, yet scientists have found that both could be linked together.