Cannabis Study: Are Cannabis Users More Creative?
by Rio Kaplan, on Jan 5, 2018 3:07:00 PM
You may have experienced the following scenario: you light up a joint or take a dab and a few moments later your mind wanders off into creativity. You want to draw, write, sing, dance, or create in some way. Maybe you discover the best solution to a problem you have been trying to solve for quite some time or brainstorm a bunch of new possible solutions.
We often associate cannabis with creative thinking and inspiration, but is that really true? Does cannabis itself increase creativity in a person? We are not the only ones curious about this often assumed phenomenon.
There have been several medical studies on marijuana and its effect on creativity over the last few decades. All studies seem to suggest that cannabis can have a positive effect on creativity, but it is subject to pre-existing personality traits in the consumer, dose, and potency of the cannabis strains consumed.
Studies on cannabis that date back to the 1970s suggest that participants reported more unique or original thoughts under the influence of cannabis, but did not account for the wide variety of factors that go into creative thinking. That’s where newer cannabis studies come in.
Recent Studies On Cannabis and Creativity
It is hard to measure true creativity since it is a pretty nebulous concept. In all of the next studies we discuss, the researchers were interested in viewing creativity through more quantitative measures than self-reporting.
In the first, a study published in Psychopharmacology in 2015, tested creativity with two classic creative processes: divergent thinking and convergent thinking. You may know divergent thinking as brainstorming, or coming up with many solutions to a loosely-defined problem. In contrast, convergent thinking is settling on the best single solution to a more strictly-defined problem. It may seem obvious or intuitive to some readers that cannabis would be more likely to increase divergent thinking and more likely to decrease convergent thinking. According to this study, this intuition would not necessarily be wrong, but it is not the entire story.
Participants were broken into two groups: high dose (22 mg of vaporized THC), low dose (5.5 mg of vaporized THC), and a control group that was given a placebo. The most significant differences between participants were associated with divergent thinking. Participants in the low dose group saw a slight increase in divergent thinking compared to the control group. But participants in the high dose group saw significantly stronger effects in the opposite direction. That is, participants in the higher dose group saw a significant decrease in their divergent thinking and did far worse than the control group’s divergent thinking performance.
Overall, this study from Leiden University concluded that while low doses of cannabis can have a slightly positive effect on creativity, high doses of cannabis can be more significantly harmful to creative thought.
Another more modern study of cannabis and creativity also suggests that the plant’s effect on creativity is more nuanced and complex than we might have imagined. This study, published in Consciousness and Cognition, also measured creativity by testing divergent thinking, but participants were identified by their natural propensity towards creativity, i.e. whether they fell on the high or low end of the creative scale.
Participants were all regular cannabis users, or users that consumed cannabis at least 15 times per month. In this study, cannabis users were asked to perform cognitive thinking assessments at home while sober and under the influence of their own marijuana.
The conclusion of this study was that for people who are already creative, cannabis may not help very much. But for those who are naturally less creative or in some sort of creative rut, cannabis could be beneficial.
The most recent of modern marijuana research studies on the effect of cannabis on creativity was conducted in 2017 and published in Consciousness and Cognition. This study looked at “the mechanisms underlying enhanced creativity in cannabis users” and whether certain pre-existing personality traits are an important piece of the puzzle.
There were over 700 total participants, with 412 cannabis users and 309 non-users; all participants completed a set of psychological tests. According to these tests, cannabis users were, on the whole, more extraverted and open to new experiences. Cannabis users also self-reported feeling more creative, despite not reporting a higher number of creative achievements than non-users. When participants were tested on convergent thinking, or narrowing down to the single best solution, cannabis users performed better.
This study suggests that cannabis users tend to have different personality traits than non-users, and these personality traits lend themselves to creativity, not the cannabis. According to the researchers, “certain personality traits tend to increase the likelihood that one will use cannabis, and that they will also be more creative.”
Conclusion: Does Cannabis Increase Creativity?
If there is one thing we know for sure, the questions of cannabis and its effect on creativity is more complex than we all might have imagined. Overall, recent marijuana research studies on this topic suggest a few things.
First, dose and potency are both important if you are looking to boost your creativity with cannabis; if you want the best results, research shows that low doses of moderate THC levels is your best bet. If you are looking for some low-THC cannabis strains, talk with one of our knowledgeable budtenders at any Buddy Boy location for advice on what to try.
Second, certain personality traits that already exist in a person may be more impactful on creativity levels than anything else, including cannabis. If you are already a pretty creative person, cannabis may not help very much; but if you aren’t a very naturally creative person or are stuck in a creative rut, cannabis could be the push you need to get over the hump.