Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Funny: The Mayor of Blacktown, Saggin' Pants, Black Women's Failings, and the Link Between Schizophrenia and Creative Genius

Oh hail the Mayor of Blacktown!

As some of our communities descend into veritable states of nature, I knew that a lone voice would emerge, one that could diagnose the how's and why's of this journey into the heart of darkness.

Random thought: How do you like that? A reference to Locke and Conrad all in one sentence. Who says that the Hamden public schools are incapable of producing gentlemen and gentlewomen of letters...

Second random thought: Did you know that We Are Respectable Negroes is now in the top 100 U.S. Politics Blogs category on Technorati? Yikes, standards must have really slumped.

Once more the cause is clear: the plague of saggin' pants, the weakness of black men, and the failures of black women explain this madness. As the Mayor says, if the sisters would both A) stop emasculating the black man and B) discard that feminist witchcraft we could move forward as a people.

Regardless of one's position on his project to save the black man, the Mayor of Blacktown must be acknowledged as a force of the first order. His mind is deft. His thoughts are sharp. The connections he makes between causal variables are compelling. The theoretical framework which drives his project is robust.

Question: What would a regression model for the Mayor's theory of saggin' pants, black women's failures, and his black men's project look like? I am not an expert on quantitative social science, so all I can do is venture a series of educated guesses. Would the dependent variable be the state of black communities? Would the strength of black men be an index variable? And finally, given that black women are at the root of all evil in the Mayor's theories would that variable be endogenous to, and co-linear with, all the others?

Perhaps an intrepid reader will detail a model (with an explanation) which we could post later in the week...

The Mayor of Blacktown's theories are also a great example of the ability to quite literally "think outside of the box" that is common to the most creatively gifted people. Interestingly, recent research is pointing to a relationship between creative genius and schizophrenia. It would seem that the most creative folks are able to draw connections between concepts and ideas in ways that the mundanes cannot.

This research also brings me personal peace. After years of frustration, I now finally have an explanation for my awkward and unique brilliance at Scattergories (true story: one of my ex queens--my White Wonder Woman of many years--loved to play that game with me not because I ever won, but because she and our friends found my bizarre examples quite entertaining).

The story follows:

Creative Minds 'Mimic Schizophrenia'

Creativity is akin to insanity, say scientists who have been studying how the mind works.

Brain scans reveal striking similarities in the thought pathways of highly creative people and those with schizophrenia.

Both groups lack important receptors used to filter and direct thought.

It could be this uninhibited processing that allows creative people to "think outside the box", say experts from Sweden's Karolinska Institute.

In some people, it leads to mental illness.

But rather than a clear division, experts suspect a continuum, with some people having psychotic traits but few negative symptoms.

Some of the world's leading artists, writers and theorists have also had mental illnesses - the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh and American mathematician John Nash (portrayed by Russell Crowe in the film A Beautiful Mind) to name just two.

Creativity is known to be associated with an increased risk of depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Similarly, people who have mental illness in their family have a higher chance of being creative.

Associate Professor Fredrik Ullen believes his findings could help explain why.

He looked at the brain's dopamine (D2) receptor genes which experts believe govern divergent thought.

He found highly creative people who did well on tests of divergent thought had a lower than expected density of D2 receptors in the thalamus - as do people with schizophrenia.

The thalamus serves as a relay centre, filtering information before it reaches areas of the cortex, which is responsible, amongst other things, for cognition and reasoning.

"Fewer D2 receptors in the thalamus probably means a lower degree of signal filtering, and thus a higher flow of information from the thalamus," said Professor Ullen.

He believes it is this barrage of uncensored information that ignites the creative spark.

This would explain how highly creative people manage to see unusual connections in problem-solving situations that other people miss.

Schizophrenics share this same ability to make novel associations. But in schizophrenia, it results in bizarre and disturbing thoughts.

UK psychologist and member of the British Psychological Society Mark Millard said the overlap with mental illness might explain the motivation and determination creative people share.

"Creativity is uncomfortable. It is their dissatisfaction with the present that drives them on to make changes.

"Creative people, like those with psychotic illnesses, tend to see the world differently to most. It's like looking at a shattered mirror. They see the world in a fractured way.

"There is no sense of conventional limitations and you can see this in their work. Take Salvador Dali, for example. He certainly saw the world differently and behaved in a way that some people perceived as very odd."

He said businesses have already recognised and capitalised on this knowledge.

Some companies have "skunk works" - secure, secret laboratories for their highly creative staff where they can freely experiment without disrupting the daily business.

Chartered psychologist Gary Fitzgibbon says an ability to "suspend disbelief" is one way of looking at creativity.

"When you suspend disbelief you are prepared to believe anything and this opens up the scope for seeing more possibilities.

"Creativity is certainly about not being constrained by rules or accepting the restrictions that society places on us. Of course the more people break the rules, the more likely they are to be perceived as 'mentally ill'."

He works as an executive coach helping people to be more creative in their problem solving behaviour and thinking styles.

"The result is typically a significant rise in their well being, so as opposed to creativity being associated with mental illness it becomes associated with good mental health."


Joanna said...

About the link between mental illness and creativity:

I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder (among other things) and I find that I am most creative and most productive when I am NOT on medication, especially when I am in one of my high/manic phases.

Having an unquiet mind sometimes leads to pure genius!

chaunceydevega said...

You need to get those paintings, poems, stories and like out and get rich quick before other folk get in your adaptive advantage.


Genius slowly going Insane said...

Makes perfect sense that creativity would be labeled as a mental disorder on a biological level, Which I guess also explains why taking hallucinagines like Hemp cause to elevate your creativity....Hmm. It all makes sense.

Then I guess I'm not crazy or rather am crazy because I know when I'm depressed. Guess the doc's where on to something when they tried to diagnose me with a mental disorder when I was younger.