Researchers at Stanford Medical School have demonstrated that children of bipolar parents score higher on a non-verbal creativity test than children of “healthy” parents. The study compared creativity scores of 40 bipolar parents and 40 offspring (half of whom had bipolar disorder and the other half of whom had ADHD), with 18 healthy adults and 18 healthy offspring. The test used was the Barron-Welsh Art Scale (BWAS), an assessment that asks test-takers to determine whether they “like” or “dislike” specific pictures (see examples from the BWAS at left).
Generally speaking, creative individuals dislike simple and symmetrical pictures. Researchers discovered that bipolar parents had 120% higher dislike scores than healthy parents, and the children with bipolar and ADHD had, respectively 107% and 91% higher BWAS dislike scores than healthy children. “I think it’s fascinating,” said Kiki Chang, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and co-author of the paper. “There is a reason that many people who have bipolar disorder become very successful, and these findings address the positive aspects of having this illness.”
For more on the strengths of individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses, see my book: The Power of Neurodiversity: Unleashing the Advantages of Your Differently Wired Brain (published in hardcover as Neurodiversity)
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