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I’ve written here before about a link between creativity and madness–artistic individuals are much more likely than non-artistic individuals to have a genetic predisposition toward mental illness. Lately I’ve been thinking and reading about a personality trait related to mental illness, and it turns out it’s related to creativity as well.


The personality trait I’m talking about is known as latent inhibition. We all receive a constant stream of stimuli throughout the day — sights, sounds, smells, etc.  A person with a normal level of latent inhibition is able to tune out the information that experience has shown to be irrelevant. Someone with low latent inhibition, however, doesn’t do that as well. He or she pays attention to what can become a overwhelming amount of stimuli.

People with low latent inhibition tend to be easily distracted, which can lead to a diagnosis of ADHD.  In more extreme cases, low latent inhibition manifests as psychosis (a mental disconnect from reality). In fact, during the early stages of schizophrenia, a chemical change occurs in which latent inhibition disappears.

But it turns out there’s a good side to low latent inhibition, too. In people with high intelligence and good working memory (an ability to think about many things at once), it can lead to original ideas and creative achievement.

It’s interesting food for thought–genetics and personality traits can predispose a person toward mental illness or genius, but there’s whole cocktail of other factors that work together to shape the end result.

Go here to read more about the connection between creativity, madness, and latent inhibition.


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