Exploring Darkness: Theory of Creativity

Why does society stigmatize creativity? It has to due with fear of the unknown. More specifically, the fear of the risks of exploring the darkness. Image: DO NOT ENTER! Are you more cautious, or more curious?



Familiarity involves information or environments you know are safe or unsafe already. The familiar can be trekked safely. The unknown, or novel, is undetermined to be safe or unsafe as of yet. The more risky zones of reality have more potential for discovery than familiarity, because familiarity cannot lead to discovery, by definition, because it is the already-discovered. Novelty is the basis of discovery. Venturing into the unknown risks death, which poses evolutionary-survival problems. For example, exploring the dark may run the risk of meeting face to face with some nocturnal predator. There is still a genetic benefit for advancing society, via exploration of environments and ideas and technologies, so these risky genes still benefit us, but we need most of society to fear change and the unknown. Fearing the unknown provides more evolutionary benefit than does craving exploration of the unknown/novelty-seeking. These traits operate on a gradient, rather than binary, trait/non-trait status.

I found the lighting and darkness so beautiful, as I explored the night for photographs.

exploring the night

It’s inevitable that those who fear the risks of the unknown will reject extreme risk takers. Schizophrenics, ADHD, and bipolar individuals go into the riskiest zones of reality, the creative zones. Education can heavily alter the outcome of theory-thinkers, such as schizophrenics. Theory-thinking does not necessarily correlate with factual and correct information. Being intelligent does not guarantee more correct interpretations of reality. People with these disorders aren’t inherently uneducated though. In general, most people are actually severely uneducated. If we assume that an epidemic of poor education is common, then the overlap of the uneducated with schizophrenics would be heavy, leading to poor outcomes and justifying the stigma, due to the dangers of uneducated hypotheses, and essentially uneducated risk-taking. We also stereotype our rejection of novel ideas. It doesn’t mean the ideas are wrong but rather, potentially wrong, instead. If a group of people is wrong, they have each other to validate and confirm each other’s wrongness, but since schizophrenics or other creative types will inherently delve off the mainstream path, and think more individually, it is bound to lead to group thinkers judging the schizophrenics, and also punish them for straying away from the academic mainstream.

Grandiosity and narcissism results from people being judged for the things they had pride in. Disapproval of their non-status quo ideas makes the creative types resent people and develop a defensive personality. Creativity is high-risk because you are exploring unknown territory where wrong answers are much more common.

The creatives aren’t simply told they go against the grain though, they are told they are idiots for challenging intellectual authority. Over and over, they will be ridiculed throughout their lives, resulting in psychological changes that could explain some of the symptoms of the creative disorders. Those who take intellectual risks, will be criticized, both for the arrogance of attempting to seek discovery, but also for fear of potentially being wrong, something most people focus much more on. It is more normal to avoid being wrong, than to explore and learn from mistakes. In our education system, teachers punish errors, which halts learning from the method of trail-and-error, and in essence, halts creative engagement. This stigma that opposes creativity, will discourage and promote the negative consequences of the disorders linked to creativity. This may facilitate miseducation and non-academic paths of learning, and promote uneducated forms of creative expression, which pose more risk, as previously mentioned.

This stigma usually discourages most people from attempting creative thinking. But creativity is linked with risk taking, and openness to experience. Rebelliousness is also linked to these traits, which makes sense, especially since grandiosity is arguably a form of rebellious mentality, and is linked to creative disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The stigma has even been historically linked to left-handedness. Left-handedness has been correlated to creativity, and schizophrenia. This bias may have even caused unique evolutionary developments, such as right-handed schizophrenics who’s language processing is atypically oriented, perhaps due to right-handed people surviving deaths due to discrimination. This may all come down to the fear of the unknown, and a bias against risk-taking.


One of the fascinating evolutionary traits observed in animals is the dynamics between child and parent creatures. In this dynamic, the child is the explorer, and the parent is the guardian. Children are often seen as more creativity, explorative, and risky. While the parent is more guardian-like, having protective traits. Presumably, fear of the unfamiliar increases as you age, due to a lack of a guardian that naturally occurs as you age out of your parent relationships. At twelve months, babies begin showing fear of novel stimulation. It is possible that before this, everything is novel stimulation, and around twelve months, there is development of comfort and familiarity. Perhaps it is not that sensitivity to novelty is developing at this age, but it is that the lack of constant exposure to novelty that begins to allow the child to realize that comfort feels better than fear. Novelty and fear have been associated via the concept of awe, which is just novelty in some sense, perhaps existentially, or due to novel environments. The naïve child trusts the adult, who has experienced all of what the naïve child considers as unfamiliar, and the adult has already familiarized to those stimuli, with the aide of the adult’s past guardian(s).

Harlow’s Monkey experiments have shown this idea in action. 

This topic is discussed in greater depth in my post, A Case For Superior Animal Cognition.


Exploring is the concept of finding new paths and solutions to the same problem, or even to seek out new problems altogether. Try out this thought experiment that reveals how intuitive and creative thinking develops. Imagine you are taking a path to some destination A. You can take the same path every time for efficiency. Due to repeated exposure, you will memorize details of this path. With this scenario, the path becomes learned and environmental consciousness slowly fades out for autopilot because a pattern has been learned. While in automatic mode, the consciousness may rest or act leisurely and freely. This is why we dissociate when driving our commutes. But what if you took a novel path each time? Then you could not stay in this automatic state. Consciousness is required to sort out novel data for it to become habituated as well. You would not have exposure to the details of the same path each time. Instead, the only repeated details you are exposed to are the ones that are common among novel paths. This means you will learn how navigate novel paths by noticing patterns between novel paths due to memory of the repeated details among these paths. This is the basis for pattern recognition. This means that pattern recognition is not some special inherent trait, but moreso novelty-seeking, and thus also risk-taking, since novelty is inherently more risky.

Notice that path 1 has more details, and the other paths are more abstract, due to a lack of familiarity and lack of exposure that would facilitate mastery of details.


If we instead chose to take a novel path each time there are some interesting outcomes. First, it forces us to practice active consciousness, habituating the ability to use consciousness, rather than habituating simple actions. Secondly, if you consider what may be learned by taking 100 paths to the same destination A, then you may learn that many paths lead to dead ends, while others are successful. For example, you may learn that L-shaped paths with stop signs on the corner tend to lead to dead ends. This pattern is something that can be applied, not only to reach destination A, but to reach destination B, C, or D and so on. This is contrast to learning the specific path 1, which is not universally applicable. These type of patterns are the ones that intuitives commonly seek out. Intuitive types would be more likely to experience auto-pilot in somewhat novel situations, after recognizing many patterns that allow the intuitive to generalize novel situations into categorical predictions. This may be how ADHD symptoms emerge.

Less intuitive, and less risk-taking types may stop when they found an answer, while intuitives will look for more possibilities. They may stop at safety, preferring the safe is better than sorry mentality. We can call these the security-seekers, as opposed to novelty-seekers.

Hypothesis: Pruning occurs in schizophrenia due to abstraction, which is similar to this explanation of pattern recognition. The details of individual thought paths are pruned due to nonuse. Psychosis may result from thought exploration.

Hypothesis: I wonder if there is some axis for which a solution with a sufficient level of efficiency causes one to stop seeking novel solutions. This may explain addiction, where efficient rewards cause repetitious reward-seeking habits. Downregulation of D2 dopamine receptors during States of addiction might be relevant to this effect, physiologically.


Low latent inhibition (LLI) is a personality trait that is linked to intuitive thinking, creativity, psychosis, high levels of dopamine in the ventral tegmental area of the brain, and ADHD. Latent inhibition is a trait that measures how well one can filter ‘arbitrary’ information out of their perception. With high latent inhibition, we expect that adaption to novelty is increased, or a lesser sensitivity towards novelty, where an individual filters out and assumes the environment is already discovered and familiar, or in some sense, irrelevant. I suspect that part of this filtering problem in individuals with LLI might be the result of exploring more diverse perceptions with one’s attention, leading to less exposure to what others consider familiar information, due to the increased (by comparison to those with LLI) exposure they have to these stimuli.

I believe this is the basis for why schizophrenics experience less optical illusions than the normal population. This is explained below.

Hypothesis: Optical illusions are, in essence, assumed familiarity of stimuli that is predictively wrong. Forming illusions more rapidly may relate to latent inhibition, whereas LLI may correlate more with a lack of illusions, which makes sense since psychosis is related. The automatic state previously mentioned, is in some sense, a state of illusional awareness. 

From my post on Marijuana, Cognition, and Perception, there is support for habituated awareness being illusions, and the mechanisms that increase consciousness in response to novelty:

A case could be made, that all illusions are a form of memory, and they form for efficient processing. Using memory constructs to form perceptions of familiar and common images that we are exposed to, such as faces, the corners of rooms, and 3-dimensional data, would allow faster processing and less time spent deciphering data as if it were novel. The ‘motion aftereffect’ illusion occurs when staring at a source of consistent motion, where eventually when looking at a static image, the perception of motion continues after the stimuli has ceased (3). This would show that the illusion is developed via exposure to the stimuli, and this would make sense of cultural differences found with optical illusions (10). Being exposed to grid-roads vs being exposed to forests, reveal drastically different stimuli that each group is exposed to on a frequent basis. Illusions are in some sense, memory-based abstractions, created from familiarity and exposure to common stimuli. Illusions would allow for faster processing, reduction of details, assumption-recognition-based processing as opposed to sensory-observation-based processing and interpreting of observations.

There is correlation between illusions failing, and proneness to schizophrenia, such as the case of depth inversion illusions, or ‘hollow mask illusions’ (7). It may be that, increasing doses of NMDA antagonists, would decrease perception, and that illusions are the highest form of perception, relying on a combination of stimuli and memory, as opposed to stimuli alone. So, with increasing doses of NMDA antagonists, we could expect the highest forms of perception to vanish first, which would put pressure on visual processing, and eventually visual failure, where an excess of details are surpassing the ability to distinguish and process the details.

By increasing illusions, visual data may be increasingly abstract and simplified, resulting in faster processing of novel stimuli, or simply that there is less novel stimuli to process, as it has been turned into illusions/memories already.

LLI may be able to be explained by the mechanics of D2 receptors, which is linked to schizophrenic pathology. ADHD is linked to D4 dopamine receptor expression, and D4 dopamine receptors form heteromers with D2 receptors. This could mean that schizophrenia and ADHD share attention deficit issues, but perhaps the origin of these attention mechanics, and their downstream mechanisms differ, resulting in different conditions and symptoms that also do not overlap, namely, the positive symptoms of schizophrenia.

My model/hypothesis for D2sh functionality from my post, Dopamine Economics:

Clearly, not every dopamine receptor is motivation-linked. D2sh would possibly a-motivational, especially towards habitual reward-seeking behavioral loops, and in essence, non-novel stimuli/rewards. This receptor could be more about becoming observant, reducing dopamine stimulation and focusing on observing the sources of dopamine to learn them. Especially in the case of novelty. One may shut off many stream of dopamine signals, and look for the largest perceptual signal causing the novelty effect. D2 long receptors, which are known to act stimulating, and not inhibit dopamine release, may cause focusing on the target of novelty once it has been discovered, or for every novel signal occurring within an environment where novelty is plentiful. Such is the state of psychedelia, and this explains why so many people anecdotally claim that psychedelics are like being a child again, and experiencing life anew.

This makes sense because D2 receptors also connect to the same receptors involved in sensation, the ones that produce anti anesthetic effects and cause psychedelia. It is an observational system. It detects novelty because normalized non-novel stimuli would give routine dopamine levels. Routine dopamine levels would be less likely to trigger rare effects, and receptors would be regulated in a way that causes repetitive binding activity. Novel stimuli might have more dopamine than is typical, resulting in higher probability that D2sh is activated.

Even without this mechanic, D2sh receptors stop dopamine flow and are inherently going to activate more likely if dopamine is higher. This means more stopping of dopamine flow.

The effects on normal linear dopamine signals would be disrupted more frequently if D2sh was more active. This means maybe the dopamine slips into neighboring neurons more likely than linear paths, that are typical. Even if it’s not literally linear, there are established common paths, perhaps what the default mode network represents, and D2 would logically derail dopamine signals to peripheral dopaminergic neuronal activity.

This would also be dose-dependent. Increasing D2sh activity would increasingly change consciousness to become less linearly-deep and more laterally-wide. The default mode network will likely dissolve as well, diffusing into what could appear as a more chaotic state.

The effect this would have on attention, would be diffusion. Diffusion of attention would mean not focusing on a singular thing. Eventually you’d become aware of many things. The purpose of this mechanic is to find and explore things. This is so the source of novelty that causes a non-routine excessive dopamine release must be found, studied, and explained.

In conclusion, we should protect and facilitate the beneficial traits of creativity, and also work to decrease the negative traits, and avoid stigmatization altogether. 

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