A quirky or socially awkward approach to life might be the key to becoming a great artist, composer or inventor. New research shows that people who behave oddly, but are not psychotic or schizophrenic, are more creative because they use more of the right side of their brains. Psychologists believe that famous creative people, including Vincent Van Gogh, Albert Einstein, Emily Dickinson and Isaac Newton, had what they call schizotypal personalities.

Psychologists Brad Folley and Sohee Park conducted two experiments to compare the creative thinking processes of schizotypes, schizophrenics and normal control subjects. In the first experiment, the researchers showed research subjects a variety of household objects and asked them to make up new functions for them. The results showed that the schizotypes were better able to creatively suggest new uses for the objects, while the schizophrenics and average subjects performed similarly to one another.

“Thought processes for individuals with schizophrenia are often very disorganized, almost to the point where they can’t really be creative because they cannot get all of their thoughts coherent enough to do that,” says Folley. “Schizotypes, on the other hand, are free from the severe, debilitating symptoms surrounding schizophrenia and also have an enhanced creative ability.”

Brain scans showed that all groups used both brain hemispheres for creative tasks, but that the schizotypes use of that side of the brain was dramatically greater than that of the others. The right side has been identified as the part of the brain where creativity originates.

Swiss neuroscientist Peter Brugger has found that everyday associations, such as recognizing your car key on your key chain, as well as verbal abilities, are controlled by the left hemisphere, and that novel associations, such as finding a new use for a object or navigating a new place, are controlled by the right hemisphere. A disproportional number of schizotypes and schizophrenics are neither right nor left hand dominant, but use both hands for a variety of tasks, suggesting that they use both sides of their brains for a variety of tasks more often than the average person does.

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