Are you overly sensitive to noise? You could be a certified genius

By Maria Kyriacou

Are you overly sensitive to noise? You could be a certified genius
You know that friend of yours who shudders at the crunch of popcorn in a cinema, unable to enjoy the movie on the screen? Well, it turns out you could be sitting beside a genius.

A new study by scientists at Northwestern University in Illinois, has found that an inability to filter out irrelevant sounds in people is indicative of greater creative prowess.

Inspired geniuses in their field that were famously intolerant of noise include Johann Goethe, Charles Darwin, Anton Chekov and Franz Kafka.

“ I need solitude for my writing; not ‘like a hermit’ that wouldn’t be enough, but like a dead man.” Franz Kafka


More recent sufferers of noise intolerance, sometimes referred to as misophonia include US TV host Kelly Ripa and autistic savant Temple Grandlin.

The findings, published in the journal Neuropsychologia, suggest those with the affliction might have a surprising creative advantage, as they are able to take in a wider range of things simultaneously.

Darya Zabelina, a PhD psychology student working on the study said: ‘If funnelled in the right direction, these sensitivities can make life more rich and meaningful, giving experiences more subtlety.’

The experiment saw 100 people tested on their ability to find original solutions to problems. Strong links were discovered between an inability to silence what’s known as ‘leaky sensory gating’ and creativity.

But (of course) geniuses have been aware of this way before this latest study with Arthur Schopenhauer writing as early as 1819 in his philosophical masterpiece, The World as Will and Representation,

“I have long held the opinion that the amount of noise that anyone can bear undisturbed stands in inverse proportion to his mental capacity and may therefore be regarded as a pretty fair measure of it.’



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