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Intelligence and Creativity

Most of us have a general concept of what intelligence is but, similar to the intangible concepts of happiness and love, our personal definition of intelligence is influenced by our own understanding of the concept.

We tend to define intelligence in many ways:

  • The capacity to learn
  • The faculty of understanding
  • An aptitude in grasping tasks
  • General knowledge and wisdom
  • The ability to reason
  • Mental agility and quick cognitive response

Creativity is another term influenced by our own viewpoint of the world and is open to personal interpretation. However, the term itself is usually described as one’s ability to think of original ideas and concepts.

Man has devised a number of instruments to try and test for intelligence, most notable is the IQ test. Creativity has proven to be a little harder to test so there are fewer scientific testing instruments, but they still exist.

Around the 1950s scientists began trying to find a link between creativity and intelligence, but all the published correlations between the two concepts were low enough to justify treating intelligence and creativity as distinct cognitive attributes.

Over the next decade other researches explored the link between intelligence and creativity. Ellis Paul Torrance’s “the threshold hypothesis” is important to note. Torrance concluded that although various cognitive factors are involved in creative performance, instrument scores on intelligence tests were poor predictors of creative performance. Therefore Dr. Torrance summarized that the source of creative performance is not correlated with our cognitive abilities but rather our own motivation. Another study published, Intelligence and Creativity, by Prieto and Sanchez upheld the “the threshold hypothesis” done by Torrance and also concluded that there is a low correlation between intelligence and creativity.

However, other studies have related creativity to academic performance, which is arguably an indicator of intelligence. A pioneering study, Family Environment and Cognitive Style: A Study of the Sources of Highly Intelligent and of Highly Creative Adolescents, was performed by J.W. Getzels and P. W. Jackson in which they observed adolescent pupils who had scored well on intelligence tests with pupils who scored well on creativity tests. The study concluded that highly creative children were superior in scholastic achievement to pupils with high IQs, although the high creative pupils had 20 IQ points lower than the high IQ students – indicating a positive relationship between creativity and academic ability. In an attempt to validate these results, researcher Kaoru Yamamoto from Kent State University conducted the same experimental method on ninth to twelfth grade students. The study, Threshold of Intelligence in Academic Achievement of Highly Creative Students, published in The Journal of Experimental Education found no difference in academic ability between the highly intelligent group and the highly creative group, even though there was an average of 20 IQ point difference between these two groups. These findings support the theory that creativity and intellect might both be equally important attributes when learning new information.

The link between creativity and intelligence continues to get debated today divided between those that believe that creativity and intelligence or are distinct mental processes (the disjoint hypothesis) or are part of the same process (the conjoint hypothesis). However, creativity as an important cognitive process is undisputed. In a recent study by Dr. Andreas Fink titled Enhancing creativity by means of cognitive stimulation: evidence from an fMRI study, cognitive stimulation showed increase activity in neural networks and an increase in one’s ability to generate new ideas.

When faced with a problem we usually brainstorm creative solutions, which is a precursor of our executive function. We then use our intelligence to evaluate these new ideas, judge their feasible, compare them to our old ideas, and make an educated decision given the situation. In essence, both creativity and intelligence have to exist in order for us to fully utilize our cognitive potential.

There are some interesting researched-based psychological techniques to help enhance creativity (and seven more creative activities can be found here) located at PsyBlog. By utilizing our ability to create and discover new things we can in turn exercise our creative powers and assist our natural ability to improve our cognitive reserve. After exploring your creativity, try testing your executive function by clicking here to see if your problem solving and deductive reasoning abilities have improved. Also, please let us know if you think creativity and intelligence are related in the comment section below. It is a hot topic among psychologist so why not share your opinion?