Synaesthesia, creativity and art: What is the link?

Authors


Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Jamie Ward, Department of Psychology, University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT, UK (e-mail: jamie.ward@ucl.ac.uk).

Abstract

It has been suggested that individuals with synaesthesia may show heightened creativity as a result of being able to form meaningful associations between disparate stimuli (e.g. colour, sound). In this study, a large sample (N=82) of people with various kinds of synaesthesia were given two psychometric tests of creativity (Remote Associates Test, Alternate Uses Test) and were also asked about the amount of time engaged in creative arts (visual art, music). There was a significant tendency for synaesthetes to spend more time engaged in creative arts and this was, at least in part, dependent upon the type of synaesthesia experienced. For example, synaesthetes experiencing vision from music were far more likely to play an instrument than their other synaesthetic counterparts. There was no relationship between this tendency and the psychometric measures of creativity, but synaesthetes did outperform controls on one of the two psychometric measures (Remote Associates). We conclude that the tendency for synaesthetes to be more engaged in art is likely to have a different mechanism to psychometric measures of creativity, and that there is no direct link between them. Although synaesthetes may well perform better on some measures of creativity, we suggest that synaesthetes have better bottom-up access to certain associations, but are not necessarily better able to use them flexibly (in divergent thinking).

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