“Leaky sensory gating” may support — and exacerbate — creativity

What is creativity? Often it’s marked by divergent thinking and the ability to make novel connections between different ideas or concepts. Think high-productivity conceptual blending.

No wonder, then, that new research from Northwestern University suggests that a failure to “filer out ‘irrelevant’ sensory information” is related to creativity. This study adds to previous research that suggests distractibility and creativity are somehow intertwined.

The Northwestern researchers write, “‘Leaky’ sensory gating … may help people integrate ideas that are outside of the focus of attention, leading to creativity in the real world…” They theorize that this is because “creative people with “leaky” sensory gating may have a propensity to deploy attention over a wider focus or a larger range of stimuli.”

It’s a two-edged sword, though. Creative people often lament their own distractibility and the nuisance that activity outside of their mind causes. My own son, who spends most of his leisure time designing games in Scratch or Unity, is continually harassed by the noises that surround him.

One thought on ““Leaky sensory gating” may support — and exacerbate — creativity

  1. Mark Crane

    Very interesting. Sensory gating sounds a bit like ADHD. I personally wear 23db earplugs and then shooter ear muffs when I need silence. It doesn’t always help.

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