Creativity can be considered one of the key competencies for the twenty-first century. It provides us with the capacity to deal with the opportunities and challenges that are part of our complex and fast-changing world. The question as to what facilitates creative cognition-the ability to come up with creative ideas, problem solutions and products-is as old as the human sciences, and various means to enhance creative cognition have been studied. Despite earlier scientific studies demonstrating a beneficial effect of music on cognition, the effect of music listening on creative cognition has remained largely unexplored. The current study experimentally tests whether listening to specific types of music (four classical music excerpts systematically varying on valance and arousal), as compared to a silence control condition, facilitates divergent and convergent creativity. Creativity was higher for participants who listened to ‘happy music’ (i.e., classical music high on arousal and positive mood) while performing the divergent creativity task, than for participants who performed the task in silence. No effect of music was found for convergent creativity. In addition to the scientific contribution, the current findings may have important practical implications. Music listening can be easily integrated into daily life and may provide an innovative means to facilitate creative cognition in an efficient way in various scientific, educational and organizational settings when creative thinking is needed.
There are at least two competing hypotheses of how attention interacts with creative cognition, although they are not mutually exclusive. The first hypothesis is that highly creative people are particularly flexible at switching their attention - that is, they adaptively shift focus among different attentional levels using cognitive control. The second, less common, view is that creative people exhibit attentional persistence, or an ability for sustained attention. We suggest these two views need not be competing, as they may both operate, but on different time scales or on different components of creativity. In the present study we examined the role of attention in real-world creative achievement and in divergent thinking. In Experiment 1 participants with high and low real-world creative achievements identified whether the stimulus contained letters S or H within hierarchically constructed letters (e.g., large S made of small Es - global level; large E made up of small Ss - local level), which were presented in blocks of eight trials per level. In Experiment 2 participants with high, medium, and low creative achievements identified the same stimulus letters, but in blocks of five, seven, and nine trials per level. Results from both experiments indicated that people with high creative achievements made significantly more errors on trials in which they had to switch the level of attention, even after controlling for general intelligence. In Experiment 2, divergent thinking was also assessed, but it was not related to switching cost. Results from both experiments demonstrate that real-world creative acts relate to increased levels of attentional persistence, even if it comes with the cost of perseveration in certain circumstances.
It is commonly assumed that positive mood improves human creativity and that the neurotransmitter dopamine might mediate this association. However, given the non-linear relation between dopamine and flexibility in divergent thinking (Akbari Chermahini and Hommel, 2010), the impact of mood on divergent kinds of creativity might depend on a given individual’s tonic dopamine level. We tested this possibility in adults by assessing mood, performance in a divergent thinking task [the Alternate Uses Task (AUT)], and eye blink rates (EBRs), a well-established clinical marker of the individual dopamine level, before and after positive mood or negative mood induction. As expected, the association between flexibility in divergent thinking performance and EBR followed an inverted U-shape function (with best performance for medium levels), positive mood induction raised EBRs and only individuals with below-median EBRs, but not those with above-median EBRs, benefited from positive mood. These observations provide support for dopamine-based approaches to the impact of mood on creativity and challenge the generality of the widely held view that positive mood facilitates creativity.
Because of its fundamental relevance to scientific innovation, artistic expression, and human ingenuity, creativity has long been the subject of systematic psychological investigation. Concomitantly, the far-reaching effects of stereotypes on various cognitive and social processes have been widely researched. Bridging these two literatures, we show in a series of two studies that stereotypes related to creativity can both enhance and diminish individuals' performance on a divergent thinking task. Specifically, Study 1 demonstrated that participants asked to take on a stereotypically uninhibited perspective performed significantly better on a divergent thinking task than those participants who took on a stereotypically inhibited perspective, and a control group. Relatedly, Study 2 showed that the same effect is found within-subjects, with divergent thinking significantly improving when participants invoke an uninhibited stereotype. Moreover, we demonstrate the efficacy of Latent Semantic Analysis as an objective measure of the originality of ideas, and discuss implications of our findings for the nature of creativity. Namely, that creativity may not be best described as a stable individual trait, but as a malleable product of context and perspective.
Finding creative solutions to difficult problems is a fundamental aspect of human culture and a skill highly needed. However, the exact neural processes underlying creative problem solving remain unclear. Insightful problem solving tasks were shown to be a valid method for investigating one subcomponent of creativity: the Aha!-moment. Finding insightful solutions during a remote associates task (RAT) was found to elicit specific cortical activity changes. Considering the strong affective components of Aha!-moments, as manifested in the subjectively experienced feeling of relief following the sudden emergence of the solution of the problem without any conscious forewarning, we hypothesized the subcortical dopaminergic reward network to be critically engaged during Aha. To investigate those subcortical contributions to insight, we employed ultra-high-field 7 T fMRI during a German Version of the RAT. During this task, subjects were exposed to word triplets and instructed to find a solution word being associated with all the three given words. They were supposed to press a button as soon as they felt confident about their solution without further revision, allowing us to capture the exact event of Aha!-moment. Besides the finding on cortical involvement of the left anterior middle temporal gyrus (aMTG), here we showed for the first time robust subcortical activity changes related to insightful problem solving in the bilateral thalamus, hippocampus, and the dopaminergic midbrain comprising ventral tegmental area (VTA), nucleus accumbens (NAcc), and caudate nucleus. These results shed new light on the affective neural mechanisms underlying insightful problem solving.
Major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder share symptoms that may reflect core mood disorder features. This has led to the pursuit of intermediate phenotypes and a dimensional approach to understand neurobiological disruptions in mood disorders. Executive dysfunction, including cognitive control, may represent a promising intermediate phenotype across major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder. This study examined dimensions of cognitive control in women with major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder in comparison to healthy control subjects using two separate, consecutive experiments. For Experiment 1, participants completed a behavioural cognitive control task (healthy controls = 150, major depressive disorder = 260, bipolar disorder = 202; age range 17-84 years). A sample of those participants (healthy controls = 17, major depressive disorder = 19, and bipolar disorder = 16) completed a similar cognitive control task in an event-related design functional magnetic resonance imaging protocol for Experiment 2. Results for Experiment 1 showed greater impairments on the cognitive control task in patients with mood disorders relative to healthy controls (P < 0.001), with more of those in the mood disorder group falling into the 'impaired' range when using clinical cut-offs (<5th percentile). Experiment 2 revealed only a few areas of shared activation differences in mood disorder greater than healthy controls. Activation analyses using performance as a regressor, irrespective of diagnosis, revealed within and extra-network areas that were more active in poor performers. In summary, performance and activation during cognitive control tasks may represent an intermediate phenotype for mood disorders. However, cognitive control dysfunction is not uniform across women with mood disorders, and activation is linked to performance more so than disease. These findings support subtype and dimensional approaches to understanding risk and expression of mood disorders and are a promising area of inquiry, in line with the Research Domain Criteria initiative of NIMH.
The relationship between intelligence and creativity has been subject to empirical research for decades. Nevertheless, there is yet no consensus on how these constructs are related. One of the most prominent notions concerning the interplay between intelligence and creativity is the threshold hypothesis, which assumes that above-average intelligence represents a necessary condition for high-level creativity. While earlier research mostly supported the threshold hypothesis, it has come under fire in recent investigations. The threshold hypothesis is commonly investigated by splitting a sample at a given threshold (e.g., at 120 IQ points) and estimating separate correlations for lower and upper IQ ranges. However, there is no compelling reason why the threshold should be fixed at an IQ of 120, and to date, no attempts have been made to detect the threshold empirically. Therefore, this study examined the relationship between intelligence and different indicators of creative potential and of creative achievement by means of segmented regression analysis in a sample of 297 participants. Segmented regression allows for the detection of a threshold in continuous data by means of iterative computational algorithms. We found thresholds only for measures of creative potential but not for creative achievement. For the former the thresholds varied as a function of criteria: When investigating a liberal criterion of ideational originality (i.e., two original ideas), a threshold was detected at around 100 IQ points. In contrast, a threshold of 120 IQ points emerged when the criterion was more demanding (i.e., many original ideas). Moreover, an IQ of around 85 IQ points was found to form the threshold for a purely quantitative measure of creative potential (i.e., ideational fluency). These results confirm the threshold hypothesis for qualitative indicators of creative potential and may explain some of the observed discrepancies in previous research. In addition, we obtained evidence that once the intelligence threshold is met, personality factors become more predictive for creativity. On the contrary, no threshold was found for creative achievement, i.e. creative achievement benefits from higher intelligence even at fairly high levels of intellectual ability.
We tested whether polygenic risk scores for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder would predict creativity. Higher scores were associated with artistic society membership or creative profession in both Icelandic (P = 5.2 × 10(-6) and 3.8 × 10(-6) for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder scores, respectively) and replication cohorts (P = 0.0021 and 0.00086). This could not be accounted for by increased relatedness between creative individuals and those with psychoses, indicating that creativity and psychosis share genetic roots.
Cannabis users often claim that cannabis has the potential to enhance their creativity. Research suggests that aspects of creative performance might be improved when intoxicated with cannabis; however, the evidence is not conclusive.
We propose that dishonest and creative behavior have something in common: They both involve breaking rules. Because of this shared feature, creativity may lead to dishonesty (as shown in prior work), and dishonesty may lead to creativity (the hypothesis we tested in this research). In five experiments, participants had the opportunity to behave dishonestly by overreporting their performance on various tasks. They then completed one or more tasks designed to measure creativity. Those who cheated were subsequently more creative than noncheaters, even when we accounted for individual differences in their creative ability (Experiment 1). Using random assignment, we confirmed that acting dishonestly leads to greater creativity in subsequent tasks (Experiments 2 and 3). The link between dishonesty and creativity is explained by a heightened feeling of being unconstrained by rules, as indicated by both mediation (Experiment 4) and moderation (Experiment 5).