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The Wiley Handbook of Genius by Dean Keith Simonton

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11 Cognitive Disinhibition, Creativity, and Psychopathology

Shelley H. Carson

Each of us is creative. However, clearly some people seem innately more inclined and able to express their creative abilities than others (Carson, 2010a). One of the debates in creativity research (Kaufman & Beghetto, 2009) is whether there is a qualitative difference between everyday creativity (little c: the type of creativity involved in everyday activities such as cooking, gardening, or arranging the living room furniture) and world-class creativity (Big C: the type of paradigm-changing ideas and products that revolutionize a field, such as Einstein's theory of relativity or Darwin's theory of natural selection). Are the mental processes of the geniuses who deliver Big-C creativity different from those who use little c to solve life's daily problems? In this chapter, I will discuss how one mental process, cognitive disinhibition, may impart a qualitative difference in the ability to generate creative ideas. Because cognitive disinhibition is also a feature of some mental illnesses, it provides an interfacing link between creative genius and increased risk for psychopathology.

Nobel Prize winner, John Forbes Nash, is considered a creative mathematical genius. He has also been diagnosed with schizophrenia and has experienced both paranoid and grandiose delusions. When asked by Harvard mathematician, George Mackey, how he could believe that aliens from outer space had recruited him to save the world, ...

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