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Study Reports Creativity Can Hinder Performance on Cognitive Tasks

Update Date: Apr 26, 2013 12:17 PM EDT

Researchers have believed that creativity can help people become successful in different types of careers, and although creativity does play a huge role in success, a new study discovered that creative people might need to learn how to focus intensely in order to use their creativity to their advantage. In this recent study done by researchers from Northwestern University, they studied the effects of creativity on learning. The researchers concluded that highly creative people appear to have more difficulty paying attention to the larger picture or goal, which can hinder their work process.

The research team recruited 74 college students that scored particularly high or low on a questionnaire that asked for information regarding achievement levels in creative tasks that included cooking, science, writing, and music. Each volunteer was given a total of 128 challenges. The participants had one second per challenge to identify certain details or aspects of each picture. The researchers factored in possible contributing variables, such as intelligence and reaction times before concluding their results. They reported that student with a higher level of measured creativity tended to make more mistakes than students that were considered to be less creative. The creative group made mistakes on nine percent of the challenges whereas the other group only had mistakes on two percent of the challenges.

Although the researchers could not find the exact reason explaining why creativity could hinder performance levels and accuracy, they theorized that the difference in the results could be attributed to attention spans. The researchers believe that creative people might have more difficulty switching their attention spans between small, meticulous details and the larger picture. Creative people might be too focused on one detail and thus, fail to see other factors in the picture.

The study was published in the journal, Frontiers of Psychology

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