Low Latent Inhibition
Low Latent Inhibition
I’ve just watched episode 9 of the new tv series called ‘Prison Break’. Near the end of this episode we find out that the main character suffers from a condition known as ‘Low latent Inhibition’. I wanted to see if such an interesting condition actually existed so I googled it and here is what I found:
Low Latent Inhibition Plus High Intelligence Leads To High Creativity?
Jordan Peterson of the University of Toronto and colleages at Harvard University have found that decreased latent inhibition of environmental stimuli appears to correlate with greater creativity among people with high IQ.
The study in the September issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology says the brains of creative people appear to be more open to incoming stimuli from the surrounding environment. Other people’s brains might shut out this same information through a process called “latent inhibition” – defined as an animal’s unconscious capacity to ignore stimuli that experience has shown are irrelevant to its needs. Through psychological testing, the researchers showed that creative individuals are much more likely to have low levels of latent inhibition.
“This means that creative individuals remain in contact with the extra information constantly streaming in from the environment,” says co-author and U of T psychology professor Jordan Peterson. “The normal person classifies an object, and then forgets about it, even though that object is much more complex and interesting than he or she thinks. The creative person, by contrast, is always open to new possibilities.”
Previously, scientists have associated failure to screen out stimuli with psychosis. However, Peterson and his co-researchers – lead author and psychology lecturer Shelley Carson of Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Harvard PhD candidate Daniel Higgins – hypothesized that it might also contribute to original thinking, especially when combined with high IQ. They administered tests of latent inhibition to Harvard undergraduates. Those classified as eminent creative achievers – participants under age 21 who reported unusually high scores in a single area of creative achievement – were seven times more likely to have low latent inhibition scores.
The authors hypothesize that latent inhibition may be positive when combined with high intelligence and good working memory – the capacity to think about many things at once – but negative otherwise. Peterson states: “If you are open to new information, new ideas, you better be able to intelligently and carefully edit and choose. If you have 50 ideas, only two or three are likely to be good. You have to be able to discriminate or you’ll get swamped.”
“Scientists have wondered for a long time why madness and creativity seem linked,” says Carson. “It appears likely that low levels of latent inhibition and exceptional flexibility in thought might predispose to mental illness under some conditions and to creative accomplishment under others.”
A less able mind has a greater need to be able to filter out and ignore stimuli. A less intelligent person with a low level of latent inhibition for filtering out familiar stimuli may well sink into mental illness as a result. But a smarter mind can handle the effects of taking note of a larger number of stimuli and even find interesting and useful patterns by continually processing a larger quantity of familiar information.
The central idea underlying our research program is therefore that individuals characterized by increased plasticity (extraversion and openness)retain higher post-exposure access to the range of complex possibilities laying dormant in so-called ‘‘familiar ’’environments.This heightened access is the subjective concomitant of decreased latent inhibition,which allows the plastic person increased incentive-reward-tagged appreciation for hidden or latent information (Peterson,1999). Such decreases in LI may have pathological consequences,as in the case of schizophrenia or its associated conditions (perhaps in individuals whose higher-order cognitive processes are also impaired,and who thus become involuntarily ‘flooded ’’by an excess of effectively tagged information),or may constitute a precondition for creative thinking (in individuals who have the cognitive resources to ‘‘edit ’’or otherwise constrain (Stokes,2001)their broader range of meaningful experience)
Note from the text of the full paper that stress causes the release of the hormone corticosterone which lowers latent inhibition. In a nutshell, when an organism runs into problems that cause stress the resulting release of stress hormones causes the mind to shift into a state where it will examine factors in the environment that it normally ignores. This allows the organism to look for solutions to the stress-causing problem that would be ignored in normal and less stressed circumstances.
So perhaps we could hypothesize something like this: under stressful conditions, or in personality configurations characterized by increased novelty-sensitivity, approach behavior, and DA activity, decreased LI is associated with increased permeability and flexibility of functional cognitive and perceptual category [see Barsalou (1983)for a discussion of such categories ]. Imagine a situation where current plans are not producing desired outcomes —a situation where current categories of perception and cognition are in error, from the pragmatic perspective. Something anomalous or novel emerges as a consequence (Peterson,1999), and drives exploratory behavior. Stress or trait-dependent decreased LI, under such circumstances, could produce increased signal (as well as noise), with regards to the erroneous pattern of behavior and the anomaly that it produced. This might o?er the organism, currently enmeshed in the consequences of mistaken presuppositions, the possibility of gathering new information, where nothing but categorical certainty once existed. Decreased LI might therefore be regarded as advantageous, in that it allows for the perception of more unlikely, radical and numerous options for reconsideration, but disadvantageous in that the stressed or approach-oriented person risks ‘‘drowning in possibility,’’ to use Kierkegaard ’s phrase.
One can easily see how this response could have been selected for evolutionarily. At the same time, one can also see how chronic stress could lead a person to fall into a state of confusion as a sustained large flood of stimuli could overwhelm the brain by giving it too much to think about and make a person unable to clearly see solutions that will relieve the feeling of stress.