Summary of the Original Research
Cannabis use is one of the most controversial topics because of its psychotic and dependence effects. Nevertheless, there is scientific literature and anecdotal evidence pointing out that cannabis can be used to enhance creativity although this assertion has not been investigated comprehensively by researchers and scholars. In the wake of this, Psychology Today reported a study by Schafer et al, which had the primary objective of investigating the relationship between cannabis use and creativity, particularly on divergent thinking. Schafer et al (2012) hypothesized that cannabis can be used to enhance some aspects of creativity. Specifically, the researchers hypothesized that cannabis use results in psychotomimetic systems that results in linking apparently unconnected concepts, which is a characteristic of divergent thinking that constitutes creative thinking. The dependent variable in the study was creativity whereas the independent variable was cannabis use.
The methodology adopted in the original study was a correlational research design. The study recruited 160 participants (cannabis users) and grouped them into two categories depending on their trait creativity: low trait creativity and high trait creativity. The researchers then conducted two tests on these groups, which entailed intoxicated and non-intoxicated test sessions in a naturalistic setting, and measured their creativity. Non-intoxicated test sessions required the participants to have abstained from using cannabis in at least 24 hrs before the test session. Creativity was measured using three tests: verbal fluency, category fluency, and Remote Associates Test. The levels of creativity in both test sessions were compared among the two groups.
The findings by Schafer et al (2012) reported that divergent thinking was improved significantly by cannabis in participants who were low with regard to trait creativity. This is because cannabis enhanced their levels of creativity to match up the creativity of the high creativity group. During the non-intoxicated test sessions, the performance of the low creativity group, with regard to divergent thinking, was relatively worse in comparison to the high creativity group. There was no change in the performance of the high creativity group during both test sessions; however, their performance was superior to the low creativity group, which implies that cannabis did not reduce their levels of creativity. With regard to this finding, the researchers maintained that the performance of the high creativity group was not changed because their temporal cortex already has enhanced function and that cannabis use does not have an impact on the functioning of the temporal cortex. From the findings, Schafer et al (2012) concluded that cannabis can be consumed to improve verbal generation, which is a vital aspect of creativity, among individuals with low levels of creativity. Moreover, the researchers point out that their findings support the view that there is a link between divergent thinking and the disinhibition of functions associated with the frontal cortex.
Psychology Today provided a comprehensive overview of the original research by Schafer et al and outlined the research hypothesis, the methodology adopted in the study, and the interpretation of the findings. In addition, the news story provided a discussion on the significance and implications of the findings of the study. The research question adopted by the researchers is of an ultimate significance, especially with regard to the new positive findings related to the use of cannabis such as medical marijuana. The findings add to the already existing applications of the cannabis in the sense that, besides medical marijuana and the use of cannabis in palliative care, cannabis may be used to boost creativity among people with low levels of creativity. However, the findings add a new twist in the field of psychology. It is obvious that smoking marijuana cannot be recommended as a method of enhancing creativity. Nevertheless, the findings regarding the involvement of particular brain regions in the creativity process is a milestone in psychology; however, can drugs be used to address creativity deficit? Essentially, the findings of the study perceive creativity from the perspective of a brain deficit; in this regard, it is possible to treat creative inabilities using drugs, and specifically, cannabis. The contemporary society is overly medicated in the sense that psychological issues can be addressed by drugs. For instance, the state of happiness is attainable through the use of psychotropic drugs; relief from emotional distress, depression, or anxiety are often first addressed by drugs followed by psychotherapy as the second option. Basing on this line of argument, the findings of the study can be used to argue that lack of creativity is a treatable condition, which can be addressed using drugs.
There are a number of weaknesses in the original study by Schafer et al. First, the researchers perceived creativity as a discrete variable in the sense that the participants were grouped basing on two levels of creativity: high creativity and low creativity. Creativity is a continuous variable that should be measured on a continuous spectrum to accommodate the various levels of creativity. The second weakness of the study is that the researchers failed to control their participants in the sense that the participants were allowed to smoke their own cannabis. Perhaps, it is highly likely that the participants could have smoked cannabis with different THC levels, which is likely to result in differential enhancement on creativity. In addition, the researchers did not take into consideration the possibility of confounding variables. For instance, there is the likelihood that the participants could have abstained from marijuana but used other drugs, which the researcher did not test for. The news story failed to highlight these weaknesses in the study, and instead, focused on the wider implications of the findings.