A great portion of our brain’s function is normally allocated for social intercourse and for the “give-and-take” inherent in myriad social interactions. Humans are social creatures, our phenomenal evolutionary success as a species—“eusociality”—depended on this.6 This dedicated-to-social-functioning component of our brain fosters the development of empathy, altruism, and cooperation. It enables us to discern emotionally the intentions and feelings of others and to interact with others. All of these factors form the second part of our nature, which originates from the evolutionary pressures of the social aspects of human experience.6,7
The absence or deficiency of the social algorithms in brain function frees enormous power in the brains of these temperamentally lopsided individuals. This power then becomes available for creative processes in the right individual. Creative persons are now able to think in alternatives, and conciliate and synthesize patterns to come up with novel solutions to seemingly intractable problems and/or create stirring works of art that emotionally mobilize us to narratives of human predicaments. Moreover, creative geniuses envision new and compre- hensively applicable paradigms of nature’s workings. They bypass our evolutionary limits of comprehension and invent ways to access the mathematical arrangement of nature, thereby conceiving, for example, quantum mechanics. Although often exhibiting a learned civility, these individuals may nevertheless be deficient in understanding the algorithms that help us perceive and comprehend the emotional gestalt, state of mind, and intentions needed for social interaction.
This lopsided variant, deficient in social algorithms, may be related to the autistic spectrum (eg, savants who can recite the list of an entire telephone book) or to traumatic brain injury (eg, persons who develop sudden heightened or de novo creative skills after the injury).
Two years after graduating from the police academy, Officer Ryan suffered a gunshot wound to the head that resulted in left frontal lobe brain injury. Before the incident, he had no interest in art and had never taken any courses in art. After the injury, in addition to moderately reduced cognitive alacrity and being somewhat “socially clueless,” Officer Ryan begins to exhibit a sudden talent for painting portraits of remarkable talent. Also endowed with high intelligence, tenacity, curiosity, persistence of effort, energy, and enthusiasm, Officer Ryan has now become a creative genius.
Individuals with this type of so-called brain deficiency exhibit exuberant confidence as national leaders and religious figures. Matched with guile and charm, such persons are often the rare individuals who are gifted with charisma. The charismatic individual is able to transform nations or create religious movements by playing to our social nature. He or she uses our innate yearning for certainty in a world of uncertainty and ambiguity to lure us into unreflecting submissiveness to his or her dictates.
Creative individuals are prone to be “cyclothymic,” while scientists and engineers predominantly tend to be “schizoid.”1-3 Unfortunately, creative geniuses are more vulnerable to major mental disorders.5 There are many examples of this phenome- non throughout history. Charles Darwin was aloof, obsessive-compulsive, and a hypochondriac.11 His co-discoverer and fellow genius, Alfred Wallace, was also aloof and a lonely wanderer. Nikola Tesla was often mentally compromised, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart suffered from mood swings. Beethoven was periodically depressed; Tolstoy was a strange, otherworldly, idiosyncratic aristocrat; and let’s not forget the periodically outright psychotic, super-genius Isaac Newton. Albert Einstein was an aloof man who mistreated his second wife Elsa (who was also his cousin). He gave away his illegitimate daughter, sight unseen, although on the surface he displayed social affability and charm.12
More recently, Steve Jobs, a very intense, compulsive genius, exhibited signs of cyclothymia.13 He was able to recruit the creative powers of others and literally built the realm of computer technology. Yet, under oath, he swore impotence and sterility to avoid the obligations to his illegitimate daughter. And the list goes on and on.
Winston Churchill had periodic dark moods, Theodore Roosevelt had mood oscillations, and the often melancholy and otherworldly Abraham Lincoln and Alexander the Great were seized by demonic fits.
Creative individuals share a similar lopsided temperament with other individuals who are vulnerable to major mental disorders.2 Their temperamental components are an extreme variant that originates from evolutionary pressures. Although deficient in social algorithms, this releases enormous brain power that enables these unencumbered individuals to excel in creative activities. Individuals also endowed with high intelligence, curiosity, persistence of effort, tenacity, energy, and enthusiasm are able to reach heightened levels of creativity in art, science, and politics.
The readily observable phenomena discussed here provide promising leads for future studies in molecular genetics and evolutionary biology, which will bring us closer to understanding the origin of temperament and its variability. Most important, further studies may identify temperamental clusters that increase the risk of a major mental disorder.
Acknowledgment—I am grateful to my daughter, Nicole, for helping me edit and organize the content for this article.
Dr Pediaditakis practices psychiatry full-time, consults, and writes articles and poetry. He raises Black Angus cattle as a hobby. He reports no conflicts of interest concerning the subject matter of this article.
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