Usually, the brain automatically filters out irrelevant information. But people with a “leaky” sensory gate, psychologists say, struggle to shut out information such as a clock ticking or a conversation in the distance.”
[In these people], sensory information is leaking in,” Darya Zabelina, a doctoral candidate in psychology at Northwestern and the study’s lead author, told The Huffington Post. “The brain is processing more information than it is in a typical person.”
The researchers hypothesized that this sensory hypersensitivity might contribute to creativity because it widens the individual’s scope of attention. So, people who take in more information would be more likely to make new and unusual connections between diverse pieces of information.
To investigate this link, the researchers asked 97 participants to complete a test of creative thinking and to answer questions measuring real-world achievement in the arts and science. In a separate test, the researchers played a short series of beeps for respondents and measured the electrical activity in their brains, which showed how much auditory information was being filtered out of their awareness.
The findings indicate that creative people do tend to be more sensitive to sounds in their environment. Having a wide scope of attention — one that takes note of information that most people automatically filter out — seems to carry some benefits. She noted that creative benefits of sensory hypersensitivity include “having richer experiences, being able to integrate information that is distantly related, or being able to make associations between distantly related concepts or ideas.”…
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