ADHD Helps Adults Be Creative

People with hyperactivity disorder have many positive attributes. A recent psychological study confirmed that these individuals show better creativity than others. The study also found that adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) had higher creative achievements in real life, when compared to persons who did not have ADHD. For the study, the researchers applied different psychological tests and real life situations on 30 university students who had ADHD and 30 non-ADHD participants. The researchers also concluded that ADHD people were better at generating new ideas while non-ADHD people could clarify the problems and develop ideas in a better way.

ADHD is a common neuro-psychological issue. People suffering from ADHD tend to be inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive. These people are at a disadvantage when pursuing academics and a chosen vocation. Recent research has identified high creativity as one of the positive attributes in individuals with ADHD. Studies have shown that these men and women are not constrained by the limits of inhibition and can think beyond what is obvious. To verify their abilities, this study tested creative thinking in two groups of young adults: one with ADHD and the other without ADHD. The participants were also assessed for their ability to solve real-life problems creatively.


  • The study included 60 undergraduate students from the University of Memphis. 30 of them had ADHD while the rest did not.
  • Using questionnaires like the Creativity Achievement Questionnaire (CAQ), the researchers measured their creative achievements in 10 areas such as humor, drama, music, culinary arts etc.
  • The researchers assessed these participants on the FourSight Thinking Profile, to identify their creative problem solving styles, which were labeled as Clarifier, Ideator, Developer, and Implementer.
  • The participants were also tested on their ability to think divergently through another test called ATTA or the Abbreviated Torrance Test for Adults.


  • On the CAQ test, the ADHD youth showed higher creative achievement than the non ADHD group.
  • On creative styles, the ADHD group worked more at generating new ideas and the participants were identified as Ideators. On the other hand, the participants in the non-ADHD group were better at clarifying and developing ideas and were classified as Clarifiers and Developers.
  • People with ADHD gave more original responses in speech (verbal originality) than those without ADHD. However, when they were tested for creating original sketches, both groups showed similar abilities. Both the groups had same level of fluency in verbal and drawing work.

Shortcomings/Next steps
This study was conducted on undergraduate students of one university and for a single age group. When replicated across different groups like students and professionals, people with varying ages and from different places, the information could be helpful in making better and more informed career choices. The fact that half of the participants were on medication for ADHD could have affected the outcome of the study. Future studies may focus on testing performance on real life tasks like poetry writing and invention.

It is important to know the abilities and disabilities of people with ADHD, so that they can be helped with better placements in life. This study is a step in that direction. It compares the creative abilities and achievements of youth with ADHD and those without the disorder. The study reports “that ADHD individuals have greater lifetime creative achievement compared to non-ADHD adults”. The creative styles of these individuals are also different. Persons with ADHD have a tendency to be “ideators” who create new and original ideas. The knowledge about different creative styles in ADHD adults can play a role in identifying careers that take into account their strengths and weaknesses.




For More Information:
Creative Style and Achievement in Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Personality and Individual Differences, January 2011
By Holly A White; Priti Shah
From the University of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.
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