Part II: Are high creativity, high Openness and the schizophrenic spectrum–linked?
(See Part I in “Temperament and the Big Five Openness Scale–Still problems there?” for introduction).
One of the strongest and most consistent links to Openness is that of creativity and its many measures. Daniel Nettle, a faculty member in Psychology at the University of Newcastle in England, has developed a view of creativity and Openness to Experience that is startling, at least initially.* To understand his approach we need to visit still more measures that correlate with both Openness and creativity.
Tests related to creativity: One of the commonest test groups for creativity are tests of divergent thinking. A simple but useful example is that of asking the subject to name all the possible uses for an object (for example, a brick). Answers are scored for both quantity and uniqueness. Tests of word fluency (e.g. number of words starting with N), of possible consequences of unusual situations, etc. all measure divergent thinking. Openness in general has been found to have a .39 correlation with total divergent thinking scores. Self-reported creative activity correlates with all Openness facets, but most strongly with fantasy (.46), and both aesthetics, and ideas at .43.**
Low latent inhibition. One explanation for the relationship of Openness and creativity is the concept of low latent inhibition. Normal latent inhibition is a relatively automatic brain mechanism, in which objects and stimuli of all kinds produce less and less reaction as they become more familiar. Since we are continually bombarded with both sensory and cognitive information, this allows us to ignore millions of points of information that have no new value for us. It makes it possible to proceed through the world relatively calmly. However there are people who have a much lower level of such inhibition. This may, at times produce unusual creativity in that they can link something already familiar with something new, in ways that most people do not, but it also means that they are in greater danger of being overwhelmed by a sort of sensory overload.
Hypnotic Susceptibility, Absorption, and Openness. Very early in the development of the Openness concept, scales measuring hypnotic susceptibility were used to study openness, as there seemed to be a relationship. Linked with this was the concept of Absorption. It is described as an ability to enter a state of total focus on one thought, idea or creative process. It is sometimes thought to be a temporary altered state of consciousness, with a heightened sense of reality, and sounds like the feeling that athletes have when they say they are “in the zone”. It correlates with hypnotizability, and very strongly with the Fantasy, Aesthetics and Feelings facets of Openness, but much less with the other facets. Continue reading