Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Night Owls Are More Creative

Dec. 11, 2006 — Not a morning person? Take solace — new research suggests that "night owls" are more likely to be creative thinkers.

Scientists can't yet fully explain why evening types appear to be more creative, but they suggest it could be an adaptation to living outside of the norm.

"Being in a situation which diverges from conventional habit — nocturnal types often experience this situation — may encourage the development of a non-conventional spirit and of the ability to find alternative and original solutions," lead author Marina Giampietro and colleague G.M. Cavallera wrote in a study to be published in the February 2007 issue of Personality and Individual Differences.

The researchers, who are both in the Department of Psychology at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, Italy, studied 120 men and women of varying ages.

A self-report questionnaire evaluated degrees of morning and evening dispositions. In fact, true morning and evening-oriented people are actually rare, since most of us fall somewhere in between.

Once the subjects were categorized into either morning, evening or intermediate types, they underwent three tests designed to measure creative thinking.

During the first activity, test subjects were asked to draw and title a picture based on an image shown by the researchers. For the second activity, called "incomplete shapes," test subjects added lines to create pictures out of straight and curved lines. They then were asked to title the pictures.

The final test was similar, only this time the individuals were presented with 30 pairs of vertical lines.

Scientists scored each completed activity on originality, elaboration, fluidity and flexibility factors. Evening types aced each test based on these criteria, while morning and intermediate type people struggled to get scores over 50.

The researchers also discovered that age didn’t curtail creativity.

"Our study supports the notion that creative characteristics persist in aged people," the scientists wrote.

Hans Van Dongen, associate research professor at the Sleep and Performance Research Center at Washington State University, helped to discover the biological explanation behind morning and evening types.

He and his colleagues found that a small group of brain cells, called suprachiasmatic nuclei, emit signals to the body that synchronize the time of day. This "biological clock" runs two hours ahead in morning types and two hours later in evening types.

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