There is a new theory about why neurotics tend to have such a great creative side. It was developed by Adam Perkins, a psychologists who is known for pushing the boundaries of thought close to obsession. Perkins revealed in a paper why he think that he himself or people like him channel their neuroticism towards problem solving or creativity.
Perkins says it’s all about daydreaming. Creative thinking and neuroticism have a long history: Isaac Asimov, Churchill, Woody Allen, they were all part of the same group, but widely known for their enthusiastic approach and how creative they were about anything. But this trait is considered double-edged and neurotic people are mostly known as “threat sensitive”.
Jeffrey Gray was the first psychologist to test a person’s neuroticism. Gray pin pointed that, in general, neurotic people want to avoid “dangerous jobs”, jobs that did not threaten their existence in any way. Thus, they prefer more analytic jobs, jobs that involve more brain activity and less muscle.
Perkins’ theory actually came into existence because he attended Jonathan Smallwood’s lecture on day dreaming. Smallwood, a scientist fascinate with how the brain works during daydreaming, explained how the self-generated thought has its roots in the brain’s medial prefrontal cortex, which also happens to be linked to memory.
Perkins described Smallwood’s explanation, saying that wandering minds do not plan a lot, thus they are better for creative purposes. Also, mind wanderers “are feeling kind of blue” and they feel happy about it as well.
Smallwood performed an experiment with a number of volunteers, simply asking them to step into an MRI, but not telling them what they should be doing next. Having nothing to do, the volunteers started daydreaming. Those who had negative had their medial prefrontal cortex light up like a Christmas tree.
Smallwood then concluded that, if you have negative thoughts, this area is going to practically block your brain. And, obviously, the more you think about a problem, the less chances for you to come up with an actual solution. And here’s where neuroticism comes in: these people don’t think about problems at all, so their brain is free to do all the interesting things.
Perkins ended his statement with a funny remark, saying that there are advantages and disadvantages when being neurotic. While neuroticism has a major benefit and helps these people come up with great solutions, they still have no idea of how to understand it. Still, it is good that it can be as helpful as it is.
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