Contrary to a widely accepted perception, the most creative people are not necessarily able to block out distractions to follow their vision. In fact, researchers are finding that the focus of creative geniuses can be easily broken by distractions.
Such people tend to have "leaky" sensory filters and have a hard time blocking out the sound and sights of daily life, according to new research out of Northwestern University. In the study, people were subjected repeatedly to clicking sounds.
Those subjects who scored highest on "divergent thinking" — who can multitask on thinking chores — tended to be rattled by the first distraction, then settled down.
Those with real-world creative achievements, however, tended to pay as much attention to subsequent clicks as the first ones. That's no doubt annoying, but it may be just the thing that makes them gifted achievers, reports the Telegraph.
The study suggests that creative people with "leaky" sensory gating may have a propensity to deploy attention over a wider focus or a larger range of stimuli.
"If funnelled in the right direction, these sensitivities can make life more rich and meaningful, giving experiences more subtlety," said the lead author of the study, Darya Zabelina. "It's a double-edged sword. It might be the precise mechanism that helps people to come up with novel, interesting ideas."