A recent study has established a connection between the tendency to overthink and heightened creativity. The opinion piece was published in the scientific journal `Trends in Cognitive Science’ by a team of neuroscientists led by King’s College psychologist Adam M. Perkins.
Neuroticism can be defined as a lifelong inclination towards negative psychological states. It is one of the main dimensions of personality that can differentiate individual behavior. The rest of these are agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness and extraversion. Those who score high on neuroticism tend to be more irritable, anxious, envious, depressed and emotionally unstable.
According to researchers, this condition leads to a hyper-active region in the brain, which is normally associated with pessimistic thoughts, but also with originality. Jonathan Smallwood, one of the theory’s co-authors, has supported this argument by using MRIs of patients who were at rest. Those who exhibited a negative mindset had activated their medial prefrontal cortex, which is closely linked to conscious perception of dangers in the environment.
As Dr. Perkins has stated, `High scorers on neuroticism have a highly active imagination, which acts as a built-in threat generator’.
Over-thinkers tend to notice threats in the environment which may otherwise remain undetected, due to the fact that their brains are highly sensitive. Sometimes, these dangers are simply manufactured and have no basis in reality, but other times such fears are justified. This causes neurotics to have a heightened awareness of potential perils, which allows them to react in a faster, more effective manner. As a result, they are highly creative when it comes to problem solving, because they have already analyzed at an incredibly fast pace every possible outcome.
This has been supported by studies showing that neurotics tend to favor professions that require creativity and rational thinking. More often than not, they avoid jobs that are risky or physically-challenging. Notwithstanding the unpleasantness of this trait, neuroticism equips people with the ability to go off the beaten track and devise innovative solutions.
Rumination may even provide the foundation for genius. Indeed, some of the greatest thinkers throughout the ages have been neurotics, such as Sir Isaac Newton or Charles Darwin. Their tendency to over-analyze things allowed them to come up with groundbreaking theories, which revolutionized the world beyond recognition.
A long time must pass before the depths of neuroticism can be properly fathomed, but any progress in the field is crucial so that people affected by this trait can better use their talents for the benefit of others.
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