Christine Mohr


2 The Concurrent Effect of Autistic and Schizotypal Traits on Convergent and Divergent Thinking

Authors: Christine Mohr, Ahmad Abu-Akel, Emilie De Montpellier, Sophie Von Bentivegni, Lyn Luechinger, Alessandro Ishii


Convergent and divergent thinking are two main components of creativity that have been viewed as complementary. While divergent thinking refers to the fluency and flexibility of generating new ideas, convergent thinking refers to the ability to systematically apply rules and knowledge to arrive at the optimal solution or idea. These creativity components have been shown to be susceptible to variation in subclinical expressions of autistic and schizotypal traits within the general population. Research, albeit inconclusively, mainly linked positive schizotypal traits with divergent thinking and autistic traits with convergent thinking. However, cumulative evidence suggests that these trait dimensions can co-occur in the same individual more than would be expected by chance and that their concurrent effect can be diametric and even interactive. The current study aimed at investigating the concurrent effect of these trait dimensions on tasks assessing convergent and divergent thinking abilities. We predicted that individuals with high positive schizotypal traits alone would perform particularly well on the divergent thinking task, whilst those with high autistic traits alone would perform particularly well on the convergent thinking task. Crucially, we also predicted that individuals who are high on both autistic and positive schizotypal traits would perform particularly well on both the divergent and convergent thinking tasks. This was investigated in a non-clinical sample of 142 individuals (Males = 45%; Mean age = 21.45, SD = 2.30), sufficient to minimally observe an effect size f² ≥ .10. Divergent thinking was evaluated using the Alternative Uses Task, and convergent thinking with the Anagrams Task. Autistic and schizotypal traits were respectively assessed with the Autism Quotient Questionnaire (AQ) and the Oxford-Liverpool Inventory of Feelings and Experiences (O-LIFE). Regression analyses revealed that the positive association of autistic traits with convergent thinking scores was qualified with an interaction with positive schizotypal traits. Specifically, positive schizotypal traits were negatively associated with convergent thinking scores when AQ scores were relatively low, but this trend was reversed when AQ scores were high. Conversely, the positive effect of AQ scores on convergent thinking progressively increased with increasing positive schizotypal traits. The results of divergent thinking task are currently being analyzed and will be reported at the conference. The association of elevated autistic and positive schizotypal traits with convergent thinking may represent a unique profile of creative thinkers who are able to simultaneously draw on trait-specific advantages conferred by autistic and positively schizotypal traits such as local and global processing. This suggests that main-effect models can tell an incomplete story regarding the effect of autistic and positive schizotypal traits on creativity-related processes. Future creativity research should consider their interaction and the benefits conferred by their co-presence.

Keywords: autism, Comorbidity, divergent thinking, convergent thinking, schizotypy

Procedia PDF Downloads 26
1 Cognitive Control Moderates the Concurrent Effect of Autistic and Schizotypal Traits on Divergent Thinking

Authors: Julie Ramain, Christine Mohr, Ahmad Abu-Akel


Divergent thinking—a cognitive component of creativity—and particularly the ability to generate unique and novel ideas, has been linked to both autistic and schizotypal traits. However, to our knowledge, the concurrent effect of these trait dimensions on divergent thinking has not been investigated. Moreover, it has been suggested that creativity is associated with different types of attention and cognitive control, and consequently how information is processed in a given context. Intriguingly, consistent with the diametric model, autistic and schizotypal traits have been associated with contrasting attentional and cognitive control styles. Positive schizotypal traits have been associated with reactive cognitive control and attentional flexibility, while autistic traits have been associated with proactive cognitive control and the increased focus of attention. The current study investigated the relationship between divergent thinking, autistic and schizotypal traits and cognitive control in a non-clinical sample of 83 individuals (Males = 42%; Mean age = 22.37, SD = 2.93), sufficient to detect a medium effect size. Divergent thinking was evaluated in an adapted version of-of the Figural Torrance Test of Creative Thinking. Crucially, since we were interested in testing divergent thinking productivity across contexts, participants were asked to generate items from basic shapes in four different contexts. The variance of the proportion of unique to total responses across contexts represented a measure of context adaptability, with lower variance indicating increased context adaptability. Cognitive control was estimated with the Behavioral Proactive Index of the AX-CPT task, with higher scores representing the ability to actively maintain goal-relevant information in a sustained/anticipatory manner. Autistic and schizotypal traits were assessed with the Autism Quotient (AQ) and the Community Assessment of Psychic Experiences (CAPE-42). Generalized linear models revealed a 3-way interaction of autistic and positive schizotypal traits, and proactive cognitive control, associated with increased context adaptability. Specifically, the concurrent effect of autistic and positive schizotypal traits on increased context adaptability was moderated by the level of proactive control and was only significant when proactive cognitive control was high. Our study reveals that autistic and positive schizotypal traits interactively facilitate the capacity to generate unique ideas across various contexts. However, this effect depends on cognitive control mechanisms indicative of the ability to proactively maintain attention when needed. The current results point to a unique profile of divergent thinkers who have the ability to respectively tap both systematic and flexible processing modes within and across contexts. This is particularly intriguing as such combination of phenotypes has been proposed to explain the genius of Beethoven, Nash, and Newton.

Keywords: Creativity, autism, Cognitive Control, schizotypy

Procedia PDF Downloads 20