Theory and Psychopathology

Lines of thought

Beautiful Myths and the Minds of Schizophrenics

How divergent thinking may elicit poetry and nonsense

The author of this article has published a book, entitled: Illuminating Schizophrenia: Insights into the Uncommon Mind under the pseudonym, Dr. Ann Olson. This book is available on amazon.com. She has also published articles such as these on the Brainblogger website.

The distribution of IQ scores in those who are schizophrenic is positively skewed as compared to that of those without schizophrenia. Essentially, there is a tendency to see a positive skew in the bell curve of schizophrenics in terms of IQ or measures of tested intelligence. This means that there is a greater chance than is the norm for schizophrenics to score as less intelligent on the distribution of the bell curve. The curve of the distribution for schizophrenics depicts a higher percentage of schizophrenics falling below normative intelligence. This implicates several factors:

(1) Schizophrenics are cognitively impaired due to diminished activity of the frontal lobe and other brain abnormalities that impact brain functioning.

(2) Schizophrenics deal with non-normative experiences that are difficult to coalesce as an organized or valid theoretical way of viewing themselves and the world.

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(3) Schizophrenics experience thought in ways that do not allow them to filter out seemingly unimportant information in an efficient way.

(4) Particularly because schizophrenics have insufficient frontal lobe activity and impaired cognitive filtering due to frontal lobe deficits, the functioning of their brains or minds may be understood to result in inadequate products in terms of thought.

(5) The products of thought in all people result from both endogenous and exogenous factors. This means that the brain does not function independent of the environment.

Although knowledge related to the physiology of brain functioning is complex, there is no question that the environment contributes significantly to the processes of the brain, including those implicated in frontal lobe activity and other aspects of brain activity that are acknowledged to relate to schizophrenia and what are called thought disorders.

It is worth noting that schizophrenics may have greater creativity than non-schizophrenics. Normally, what people think of when they consider the quality of creativity in schizophrenics is artistic ability, instead of creativity of thought. While creativity is an aspect of intelligence, it does not imply genius in those who are schizophrenics. The idea of the “beautiful mind” of the mentally ill person is a somewhat sentimental myth. It is rare for a schizophrenic to possess an exceptional mind. This is obvious.

It has been theorized by the researcher Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch that, when intelligence and creative thinking are distinguished, creativity is viewed as divergent thinking, which is not necessarily negative, but is divergent from the norm. However, intelligence is a different construct, and it is not synonymous with creativity.

Gromisch asserts that creative people who are divergent thinkers filter out less information than that which is accrued from the environment than less creative people. (Gromish. 2010) This is consistent with observed deficits in terms of frontal lobe activity in schizophrenics. It may be valid to view creativity as based upon organizing a greater amount of miscellaneous details, aspects of the world and the self that may be raw material for formulating new ideas. Note that miscellaneous ideas can overwhelm the processes of thought, as reflected in loose associations, word salad, and other characteristics of thought seen in the schizophrenic and signified by impaired verbal ability.

Intelligence combined with creativity can yield exceptional results that are based upon human cognition. This may mean that there is more information available to creative people, as a prerequisite, and this information will allow them to formulate solutions and ideas that are divergent. Simultaneously, these products of cognition may be insightful. By contrast, the uncreative person may simply accept aspects of themselves and the world as givens, construed in a normative way that requires little imagination, thought, or understanding. The uncreative may experience the world and themselves superficially. These individuals may simply digest ideas about the world in a normative way without processing much in terms of the details of thought.

When non-normative experience is digested by an individual who is both creative and intelligent, a circumstance that is rare, the individual may emerge with a “beautiful mind” or an anomalous mind, at any rate, in terms of the fruition of new ideas. However, it is a fact that thought may be useless when it is not associated with a genuine and strong respect for tradition, or the basic ideas and cultural climate from which and in which this thought emerges.

Intelligent schizophrenics may be able to launch into cognitive exploration based on creativity, but only if they are able to look at non-normative experience constructively will they be able to generate new ideas that are plausible. For the most part, anyone who views the world and themselves on a level of greater detail than others may be creative or intelligent, and, while not synonymous, creativity and intelligence may be positively correlated, even while intelligence and schizophrenia are not. Schizophrenics, while creative, may prove unable to organize the myriad non-normative experiences that they encounter, they may lack the intelligence to think constructively about these, and they may be unable to tie their experiences to traditional ideas and the intellectual climate of the times.

When a person is properly medicated with atypical antipsychotic medication, his mind may be able to filter a greater amount of information and deal with his own perceptions in a more cognitively organized way. If divergent or creative thinkers filter out less information than non-creative thinkers, it would make sense that their ideas, including the delusional ideas of psychotic individuals in particular, would reflect a greater abundance of information on which they may base their cognitive formulations.

Worth noting is the fact that the newer generations of atypical antipsychotic medications have been found to influence organization of thought. This means that newer antipsychotic medication may allow for an increase in IQ as signified by higher scores on standard IQ tests. If thought can improve based on the administration of antipsychotic medication, there is reason to think that administration of medication can improve one’s tested intelligence. Of course, a medication used to treat anxiety also may boost scores in terms of tested intelligence by enhancing working memory.

The fact that administration of medication increases the schizophrenic’s productive thought, then, as an aspect of manipulation of the brain, may be an essential conclusion of worth in this discussion. Creativity and intelligence in the schizophrenic, whose brain malfunctioning is treated with appropriate medication, may prove to be useful in personal activities and larger societal endeavors in terms of utility. This is a valid conclusion. Thinking is an activity that all of us, the mentally healthy and the mentally ill, rely on in a fundamental way.

References:

Gromisch, S. E. (2010). The Dopamine Connection Between Schizophrenia and Creativity. Psych Central. Retrieved June 3, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/2010/the-dopamine-connection-between-...

 

 

Ann Olson is a doctor of psychology, a writer of fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry.

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