The Creative and Generative Capacity of Savant Artists with Autism

Ryder, Nicola. 2003. The Creative and Generative Capacity of Savant Artists with Autism. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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The aim of this thesis was to investigate the creative and generative capacities of a group of savant artists. As savant talent has a higher prevalence in autism, a disorder associated with deficits in imagination and creativity, it is surprising that one should find savant ability in areas such as music and art. Despite the interesting paradox this creates there has yet to be a thorough, empirical investigation into this area of savant performance in artists.
The measurement of the concepts of creativity and generativity is alone a contentious area in psychology; however, from the outset they were clearly defined for the purpose of this thesis. Creativity is defined as the capacity to produce novel and meaningful responses, whereas generativity refers to the amount, or quantity, of ideas produced, irrespective of their originality. As the creative and generative capacity of savant artists is a hitherto neglected area of research, this investigation began by measuring this capacity in the domain of ability, using a standardised test where the response was drawn. A second test looked at creative and generative performance on a construction task with no drawn element. Subsequent investigations focused on the processes thought to underlie performance on the initial two tasks, particularly relating to the assets and deficits in the performance of the savant group, which may have occurred as a result of their autism.
The results showed that a general autism-specific deficit was evident on tasks that required generativity outside of the direct domain of drawing. On the other hand, in relation to creativity, there were indications that such qualities were spared in the savants on tasks not directly involved with drawing, although still in the visual domain. These contrasting results are discussed in terms of a segmented visual processing style in the savant artists and an autism-specific deficit with regard to the generation of appropriate action plans.

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Thesis (Doctoral)

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Date Deposited:

14 Jul 2020 10:00

Last Modified:

14 Jul 2020 10:03


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