As a young dumb adolescent, I was enamoured with the idea of marijuana as a mind-expanding substance. So was everyone, right? You see those images of John Lennon pinching at a joint, or Hunter S Thompson with his typewriter and mull bowl, and you think: “There’s got to be something there – some kind of link between punching cones and producing ~great art~. Some kind of correlation.”
And there is. Weed users are typically more creative people, according to a recent study. But it’s not because they smoke weed.
Emily LaFrance, a graduate student at Washington State University and author of the study, was interested in the widely held belief that cannabis had been instrumental in the work of some of history’s greatest creatives.
“I began to wonder about this commonly held idea – are cannabis users really more creative than non-users? And if so, is this because cannabis use makes them more creative, or is something else causing differences in creativity between users and non-users?”
LaFrance decided to put that notion to the test. Alongside a handful of researchers, she recruited 412 cannabis users and 309 non-users and got them to complete a series of psychological tests. The study’s findings were twofold.
On the one hand, cannabis users did self-report higher levels of artistic creativity than non-users. They also performed better on a test of convergent thinking – that is, a creative process of problem-solving.
But researchers also found that cannabis users tended to be more open to new experiences than non-users – and when this was taken in to account, the supposed parallel between ‘weed’ and ‘creativity’ went up in a cloud of smoke.
“According to the results of this study, cannabis users may be more creative than non-users, but this is not because using cannabis has increased their creativity,” said LaFrance. “Instead, cannabis users tend to have different personality traits (they are more open to experience) than non-users, and this openness to experience is associated with both cannabis use, and heightened creativity.
“So, cannabis use does not increase creativity, but certain personality traits tend to increase the likelihood that one will use cannabis, and that they will also be more creative.”
LaFrance sees it fit to stress, however, that this study only looked at sober cannabis users. Whether smoking half an ounce might help you come up with that million-dollar Kickstarter idea is another matter.
“It is important to keep in mind that we did not assess the impact of being acutely high on cannabis on creativity.”
Feature image: Leafly
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