Is the ADHD Brain More Creative?

Is the ADHD Brain More Creative?

Psychology November 11, 2011 / By Dr. Stephanie Sarkis
Is the ADHD Brain More Creative?

Does ADHD give people a creative edge?

Is it possible that the impulsivity and quick-thinking that accompanies ADHD may also boost creativity?  And what role does medication have in that creative process?  Does stimulant medication hamper creativity, or boost it?

The ADHD brain may not be held back as much by constraints on thinking.  In a study by Abraham et al. (2006),  adolescents with ADHD, adolescents with conduct disorder, and a control group were each assessed with creativity measures.  The ADHD group was found to have a higher rate of being able to overcome constraining examples ("thinking outside the box"), but had difficulty creating an invention from an imagery task.

In a study by White and Shaw (2006), people with ADHD were found to score higher than those without ADHD in a measure of divergent thinking (ie. coming up with creative solutions to a problem).  However, people with ADHD did not score as well as those without ADHD on a measure of convergent thinking (ie. giving the "correct" answer to a test question). 

A later study by White and Shaw (2011) found that people with ADHD scored higher in original creativity and creative achievement than those without ADHD.  It was also found that people with ADHD preferred generating ideas, while those without ADHD preferred clarifying problems and developing ideas.

Contrary to popular opinion, stimulant medication may not actually hamper creativity. In a double-blind placebo-controlled study, Farah et al. (2009) measured sixteen young adults on four measures of creativity.  Two of the measures required divergent thought, while the other two required convergent thought .  The study found that Adderall did improve convergent thought.  No negative effects were found on convergent and divergent thought measures.

While more studies need to be done on ADHD and creativity, it does appear that there may be a correlation between ADHD and increased creativity. 


Abraham, A., Windmann, S., Siefen, R., Daum, I., and Güntürkün, O. (2006).  Creative thinking in adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)Child Neuropsychology 12(2): 111-123. 

Farah, M.J., Haimm, C., Sankoorikal, G, and Chatterjee, A. (2009).  When we enhance cognition with Adderall, do we sacrifice creativity?  A preliminary study Psychopharmacology 202(1): 541-547.

White, H.A., and Shaw, P. (2011).  Creative style and achievement in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorderPersonality and Individual Differences (50)5: 673-677.

White, H.A., and Shaw, P.  (2006). Uninhibited imaginations: Creativity in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorderPersonality and Individual Differences 40(6): 1121-1131.

Copyright 2011 Sarkis Media LLC

This article originally appeard at Psychology Today

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