Cannabis and Creativity: Is There a Connection?

Reported by Mihaly Csiksgentmihalyi of Psychology Today, creative people are outstanding in their work because they can evolve and adapt to virtually any situation. They are able to use whatever available supplies they have to achieve their goals. Creative people tend to go back and forth between imagination and fantasy but always have one foot on the ground. There is an idea that has always floated around the cannabis community, as well as outside of it, wondering if cannabis can help improve a person’s creativity or highlight their creative nature in general.

So what is creativity? Creativity is described simply as the generation of new ideas. This extends further than writers, musicians, and painters. Anyone who comes up with new ideas, such as physicists, inventors, and mathematicians are creatives, too, and the age-old question regarding marijuana and creativity also includes these people. Two studies were done where researchers set out to determine the answer to the burning question, so let us have a look.

Convergent vs. Divergent Thinking

One study, led by Mikael Kowal, sent researchers on a quest to investigate the acute effects of cannabis when it came to creativity. They did this by administering low potency doses of marijuana to one of two control groups, and high potency doses of marijuana to the second control group. Their methods of thinking were then measured using two metrics: convergent thinking, which relates to finding a single solution to a clearly defined issue, and divergent thinking, which means more of a loose, brainstorming way of thinking.

The findings from this study stated that cannabis with low potency may not have an effect on creativity one way or the other, while high potency cannabis may actually impair that divergent, abstract thinking. There was no significant effect found regarding convergent thinking.

Semantic Priming

Another study had researchers looking at semantic priming within those who had consumed cannabis, and then again with those who do not partake. Semantic priming is the process in which a person responds faster with an answer when an original word is provided and related to the answer, such as “fish” and “water” than when the words have no relation, such as “coffee” and “ocean.” They set out to see if this priming effect was increased, thereby enhancing creativity. In this study, this priming effect was noticed to be increased in both those who had used marijuana before but are not current users, and those who were under the influence.

Given this research among several other studies, it could go either way when pursuing creative or artistic endeavors. Some research suggests that it can enhance creativity, while others are adamant that it only dampens it by hurting the firing rate of neurons, and stops the release of precious neurotransmitters by shutting off the calcium channels they need to be released. It may also stop or otherwise affect nerve cell communication. If the function of these is needed to help the creative process, it could very well be concluded that marijuana may, in fact, worsen the creative process instead of helping further it.