The Innovative and Creative Power of ADHD
The Innovative and Creative Power of ADHD
By Angus Chen and Mythili Rao / thetakeaway.org
Oct 30, 2014

One psychologist argues that we should consider people with ADHD to be highly imaginative people rather than people with a learning disability. 

Where does innovation, invention, or creativity come from? What part of the brain does it live in? Scott Barry Kaufman, a cognitive psychologist and scientific director at the Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, says that people diagnosed with ADHD and people who we consider to be creative thinkers are actually extremely similar.

The brain’s default mode network, which controls cognitive processes like perspective taking, daydreaming, and mind wandering, is most active when our mind is resting. And when examining FMRI studies, Kaufman says that this part of the brain is more active in people diagnosed with ADHD.

“I refer to it as the imagination brain network because I think that’s what it really is,” he says. “The latest research shows that the imagination brain network is highly conducive to creativity and creative thought. And those who are diagnosed with ADHD seem to have greater difficulty than those who are not diagnosed with ADHD in suppressing activity in this imagination brain network. In a way, you can actually conceptualize that people with ADHD have an overactive imagination as opposed to a learning disability.”

Kaufman argues that, in some ways, the presence of ADHD may also be symbolic of the evolutionary process.

“About 50,000 years ago when a band of us left Africa, went to Europe, and eventually conquered the world, in order to travel and go such distances it was found that there was a genetic mutation,” he says. “This particular genetic mutation is associated with dopamine and has also been associated with ADHD. Without these characteristics, we may not have become Homo sapiens.”

Based on the research available, Kaufman says that the way our educational and psychiatric systems view ADHD may be seriously flawed.

“What I like to do is look at the different characteristics that are associated with the [ADHD] label,” he says. “It is a label at the end of the day, and it’s something that we put on people—especially in an educational context.”

According to Kaufman, people who have been diagnosed with ADHD appear to have more active imaginations. But the ADHD label can be profoundly determinative—the diagnosis can even channel kids into special programs, and sometimes narrow their options in high school and college. Kaufman says that parents need to work with schools to identify learning formats that don’t stifle creative thinking.

“This is a broader issue, and I think all students should get the opportunity to be active learners,” he says. “Give them an opportunity to actually take control of the learning process and be driven by their interior monologues, their interior fantasies, and their interior daydreams. Allow the student to have some autonomy in that process and you can see them flourish.”

Teachers seem to be impatient when it comes to creativity. According to Kaufman, recent studies show that the behavior educators identify as “disruptive” and “creative” often overlap.

“Quite simply, we don’t value creativity, and we don’t value imagination either,” he says. “Imagination is a necessary part of creativity. Every time that we force a student to passively listen to a lecture or something that a student isn’t personally interested in or doesn’t see the relevance to their future life, we’re robbing them of an opportunity to imagine their own personal futures, and a new curriculum that might not even exist yet.”

Kaufman says that, in many ways, students with ADHD are much more like our ancestors of 50,000 years ago.

“You could conceptualize people with the ADHD label as explorers—imagine being an explorer trapped in an educational classroom where the teacher is saying, ‘Pay attention to me and don’t explore,’” he says. “It drives them nuts.”

PRODUCED BY: Angus Chen and Mythili Rao

EDITORS: T.J. Raphael

IMAGE: David Malan/Getty

© 2014 WNYC Radio and PRI

3.9 ·
3
Trending Today
Looking Forward to the Day That Nationalism Is as Reviled as Racism
Tim Hjersted · 8,389 views today · Nationalism is a form of geographical racism that makes some lives matter more than others, and explicitly justifies that logic without apology. While today, not even lying...
Why It's Crucial for Women to Heal the Mother Wound
Bethany Webster · 4,796 views today · The issue at the core of women’s empowerment is the mother wound
Supporters 'Ecstatic' After Obama Commutes Chelsea Manning's Sentence
Nika Knight · 4,666 views today · Whistleblower to be released from military prison in May
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 3,104 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
How Mindfulness Empowers Us
2 min · 3,052 views today · Many traditions speak of the opposing forces within us, vying for our attention. Native American stories speak of two wolves, the angry wolf and the loving wolf, who both live...
Escape! From the Cult of Materialism (2016)
50 min · 1,307 views today · Does the philosophy of materialism work to destroy our identities, experience, and environment? Join narrator Daphne Ellis on a radical romp through the evidence and decide for...
What Is My Activism Really About? to Love, Serve and Remember
Tim Hjersted · 983 views today · I have made a promise to this world that I will carry with me to my last days. It is my vow to lessen the suffering of the world while I am here - it is to ensure that every...
Dinosaur explains Trump policies better than Trump!
8 min · 891 views today · Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90's TV show sitcom, "Dinosaurs". 
Before He Was Assassinated, MLK Jr. Was Advocating For An End To Income Inequality
10 min · 671 views today · We can honor MLK Jr. by pursuing the causes he was advocating for before he was killed.  ​​ Part 2: The Basic Income, A New Human Right (3 minutes) MLK's idea of a basic...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 656 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
The Invention of Capitalism: How a Self-Sufficient Peasantry was Whipped Into Industrial Wage Slaves
Yasha Levine · 598 views today · “…everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious.” —Arthur Young; 1771 Our popular economic wisdom says that...
Coping With Narcissistic Personality Disorder in the White House
N Ziehl · 567 views today · I want to talk a little about narcissistic personality disorder. I’ve unfortunately had a great deal of experience with it, and I’m feeling badly for those of you who are...
One "Piece of the Oppressor" That I Have Discovered Within Myself
Tim Hjersted · 547 views today · One "piece of the oppressor" that I have found in myself during my inner activist journeys is my use of shame as a method of engaging with the world's problems. Having learned...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 406 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
The Greening of the Self: The Most Important Development of Modern Times
Joanna Macy · 370 views today · Something important is happening in our world that you are not going to read about in the newspapers. I consider it the most fascinating and hopeful development of our time...
Stunning Photos By Alexander Semenov Showcase The Alien Beauty Of Jellyfish
Earth Porm · 335 views today · Jellyfish appear like beautiful aliens in Alexander Semenov’s photography, calling a new attraction to a magical species of marine life. Alexander Semenov is a marine...
This Woman Gets No Applause...Why? They Are Too Creeped Out...
7 min · 326 views today · Think you aren't being fooled by advertising tricks? Take a look at this so-called expert revealing food marketing's secret weapon. No amount of marketing makes factory farming...
90 Inspiring and Visionary Films That Will Change How You See the World in Profound Ways
Tim Hjersted · 284 views today · The world today is in crisis. Everybody knows that. But what is driving this crisis? It's a story, a story that is destroying the world. It's a story about our relationship to...
What Martin Luther King Jr. Can Teach Us about Nonviolence
John Dear · 265 views today · I've been reflecting on the principles of nonviolence that Martin Luther King Jr. learned during the historic yearlong bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala. After Rosa Parks refused...
The Corporation (2003)
145 min · 254 views today · The Corporation is today's dominant institution, creating great wealth but also great harm. This 26 award-winning documentary examines the nature, evolution, impacts and future...
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
The Innovative and Creative Power of ADHD