Cannabis and creativity are often mythically interlinked.
We have heard about the calming and pain-relieving effects of cannabis, but how true is the claim that cannabis can help improve our creativity? Unfortunately, there are no accurate facts and figures to aptly understand the degree of effect that cannabis might have on the imagination.
This is because creativity is rather subjective, and even science can’t really put it in a box to measure it or adequately describe its mechanisms.
Creativity is something that could be a culturally developed methodology or the influence of media that has enabled many to believe that cannabis has productivity and creativity boosting effects. A study says that approximately 50% of people using cannabis felt that they had enhanced creativity as an after effect.
This brings us to delve deep into the components of creativity in order to better understand the connection between cannabis and creativity. These components are known as convergent and divergent thinking.
Divergent Thinking VS. Convergent Thinking
Divergent thinking is the key phenomenon behind brainstorming. It is all being able to process thoughts and explore various associations regarding the main idea. Furthermore, it occurs in a rather non-linear, spontaneous, and free manner so as to enable one to think outside the box.
Basically, divergent thinking is used when you want to open up your mind to a wide range of possibilities and in a multitude of different directions so as to reach the best possible solutions.
On the other hand, convergent thinking is about finding a common idea, thread, or concept from various ideas. It is about bringing together a box of ideas and summarizing them in a conclusive way.
Now that we know about the key cognitive processes that play a major role in creativity, the question of how remains.
“The answer isn’t black and white,” says Dr. Alice Weaver Flaherty.
Flaherty is a neurologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital and a Harvard Medical School professor. She specializes in brain stimulation and the relationship of the brain with creativity.
After comprehensive research, she concluded that the answer perhaps lies in the frontal lobe. Another study conducted by Jasen Talise in the Berkeley Medical Journal reports that creativity has a direct relation with the frontal lobe of the brain and that the utilization of cannabis can increase cerebral blood flow.
Flaherty and Talise worked together on studying neurology and found out that, with regards to cerebral blood flow, while comparing subjects with mediocre and higher creativity levels, the latter had a rather higher frontal lobe activity that would increase while performing tasks that require more creative thinking, when exposed to cannabis.
Flaherty concluded that the correlation of cannabis and creativity works in two ways. First, it sets the nucleus accumbens (a creativity booster) of the brain in motion. Secondly, it gives way to more divergent thinking, thereby expanding imagination.
Divergent thinking is often used when you want to list a number of possibilities for more innovation or perhaps for looking at the matter from a different point of view. Some examples for this could be figuring out how to amplify your sales, or how to manage your inventory in the most effective way, or what dishes to put on your menu to better attract the majority.
Let’s take a look at another study to discern the effect of cannabis on our thinking capabilities.
A couple of researchers in the Netherlands distributed cannabis in 3 different amounts to around 53 participants who were regular customers. One group was given a 5mg dosage, the second was given 22mg, and the last one received a placebo.
After that, the cognitive performances of these individuals were examined through two separate tests: divergent thinking test (or creative thinking) and the convergent thinking test (which identifies the ability of an individual to arrive at a conclusion or sum varying thoughts and ideas).
Surprisingly, there was no major difference in the scores of each group when convergent thinking was concerned.
On the other hand, divergent thinking required that the individuals propose uses for several different household items. This would allow people to use their imaginations and really test their skills that are associated with creativity.
The test analyzed people on the basis of fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration.
As a result, large doses of cannabis worsened the performance with regards to creativity, whereas placebo and small doses had a rather comparable effect. While this study was comprehensive in analyzing the participants’ moods and anxiety levels, it lacked in testing out an array of other complexities.
One of the major restrictions of this test was that participants were studied in a restricted environment and under controlled conditions, which, in actuality, ignores the measure of creativity or the reason behind triggering one’s imagination.
So, if we were to exercise creativity in a comfortable environment that is conducive to high-energy or more emotional expressions, would the results vary? What if Indica, a sleep-inducing cannabis strain, was used for this experiment instead of Sativa? And lastly, what if our creativity level was affected by other factors in addition to anxiety and tolerance to cannabis?
In the end, this study simply paves the way for more research to be done on empirically measuring creativity. Or, perhaps the effect of cannabis on creativity chalks up to a personal experience rather than something that can be generalized.
A study conducted in 2014 reports that the correlation between creativity and cannabis depends on dosage. For example, a lower dosage of 5.5 mg resulted in improved creative or divergent thinking, which also concerns fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration.
In the point-based test, the scores of these individuals were higher, especially with respect to the uniqueness of answers.
Another such study was conducted in 2012, where the individuals were segmented based upon their creativity levels. These individuals were tested both before and after their consumption of cannabis.
Participants were asked to bring their own cannabis so as to give them the opportunity to bring samples that affected them more. Furthermore, this study also gives way for a more individualistic experiment and keeps the potency and variation of cannabis in consideration.
The result showed that participants with higher levels of creativity weren’t affected or were the least affected. Whereas, interestingly, people with low creativity levels scored higher in being imaginative.
As a result, the study concluded that people who are more creative in their daily lives weren’t going to be much affected by cannabis, no matter their chemical composition. But people who aren’t normally considered inventive may actually experience a boost in creativity as a result of cannabis.
From the results derived from the 2017 study, it can be suggested that people with lower creativity levels have a higher chance of being more innovative with the consumption of cannabis.
In addition, the study also analyzed the personality types of the participants utilizing the popular measure known as Big 5.
Under the influence of cannabis, participants scored much higher when “openness to experience” was concerned. This measure indicates the creativity and inventive traits of an individual. In other words, the findings of the study were that cannabis can trigger enhanced creative traits in users.
However, in the end, we will still say that it still depends on you and what works for you.
What we know is that cannabis has the potential to increase cerebral blood flow, which can result in higher creative output. Secondly, the dosage of intake plays a major role in the effectiveness of the sample.
Thirdly, the overconsumption of cannabis can result in lower creative levels, whereas a small dose can have the opposite effect.
Fourthly, people who are generally not that creative have a higher chance of augmenting their creative output, whereas the people who are more artistic are not drastically affected.
It is, however, important to note that measuring creativity is subjective.
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