Relationship Between Intelligence and Creativity

06 Apr 2018

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For a long time, creativity has been a neglected subject in psychological research. This is mainly because it has always been widely believed that it has mystical influences or a divine nature. Plato said that the poet is only able to create what the Muse dictates and most often than not, even nowadays, writers or inventors often mention the presence of a spiritual nature that switches their perspective to a revelatory one. However, at the beginning of the 20th century, those interested in the human mind found a new interest in the matter. This generated countless theories regarding the nature of creativity, but probably the most puzzling question was whether one has to be intelligent to create something never seen before or to discover a never before explored perspective. This essay will present a few of the most famous opinions on the matter.

Most of the research in this area, up until the 1960s, was based on the idea that creativity and intelligence are coincide. Cox and Terman(1926) proposed that highly creative individuals are also exceptionally intelligent and they tried to estimate the IQ of 301 of the most eminent people who lived between 1450 and 1850.The study was severely criticized because of the unreliability of the data collected from letters, records and writings, but also because of the subjectivity involved in approximating IQs. The results were inconclusive, showing that high, but not the highest, intelligence combined with great persistence can achieve greater eminence than those of highest intelligence did.

A study, by Getzels and Jackson(1962), was the first to somewhat prove that creativity and intelligence were independent concepts. They selected a high sample of students ranging from 6th grade to the end of high school and they asked them to complete one IQ test and five alleged creative tests. Their results showed an insignificant correlation between the scores. However, Wallach and Kogan(1965) reanalyzed the data and concluded that four of the creativity tests were significantly correlated to IQ for girls and all five of them for boys. They theorized that results continued to show that intelligence and creativity share a conceptual basic because the way tests were administered was very similar to the methods used for IQ testing. It was suggested that the presentation of tests and the frame of reference of the subject are important in determining whether there is a connection between intelligence and creativity. Boersma and O’Bryan (1968) decided to test this with 46 elementary school students. All of them were given the Lorge-Thorndike Nonverbal and Verbal Intelligence tests under strict teacher supervision, in the classroom. Afterwards, they were randomly assigned into two groups: group A and group B. One day after taking the intelligence tests, group A were given Torrance’s Figure Completion(TFC) test of nonverbal creativity and Unusual Uses test, under the same conditions. Group B were administered the same tests except they were informed, one day after taking the intelligence tests, that they were free from school that morning. They were then invited to visit the University of Alberta, where an examiner took them in a gymnasium where several boxes with toys had been placed. The boys were told they could play, but after 60 minutes the examiner asked them if they would like to try “something someone made up”. He then placed a box containing the TFC tests. The tests had no instructions on them, the examiner saying they should include as many different ideas as they wished. Ten minutes later, the examiner asked if they wanted to go to the pool and instructed them to put the tests back in the box with their names written on them. 25 minutes later, the examiner presented them with a soft toy dog and asked them to find as many uses for it, other than that of a toy. The final results showed that Group B scored significantly higher on the creativity tests and displayed a less significant correlation between intelligence and creative variables. These results support Wallach and Kogan’s suggestions, but, at the same time, it must be noted that the definition of creativity used by the experimenters was quite general, and, since the participants were all children, it could be that the creativity they displayed was simply age specific.

Supporters of the cognitive approaches generally assumed that the study of creativity was simply an extension of that of intelligence, mostly because it was thought that both involved the same main mental processes. Norbert Jaušovec (2000) conducted a study that investigated the differences in cognitive processes related to creativity and intelligence with the help of EEG coherence and power measures in the lower and upper alpha band. The participants were 49 students and teachers taking a course in psychology. They were divided into four groups, based on the results in intelligence (WAIS) and creativity (Torrance) tests: gifted- high IQ and high creativity; creative- high creativity and average IQ; intelligent- high IQ and average creativity; average- average IQ and average creativity. Afterwards, they were asked to solve two problems with two levels of complexity, which could be considered closed problems with closed solution situations, and later, they had to solve four creativity problems, some similar to those on creativity tests, and others related to their everyday lives. Both tasks were completed while the individual’s EEG was being measured. Results showed that for the first task, highly intelligent individuals displayed less mental activity (which would translate to less effort) and greater cooperation between brain areas than average intelligence individuals. In the completion of the second task, highly creative individuals displayed less mental activity than the average creativity participants. At the same time, creative individuals showed better connections between brain areas than gifted individuals. The results suggested that creativity and intelligence are different concepts and abilities that differ in the neurological activities shown by individuals while solving open and closed problems. Results also imply that creativity has a less pronounced influence on solving closed problems, as well as intelligence on solving open problems.

Another prominent hypothesis was developed by Guilford (1967) and is widely known as the threshold theory, which assumes that above-average intelligence is a necessary condition for high-level creativity. This is commonly tested by dividing a sample to a threshold (e.g. 120 IQ) and determining correlations for lower and upper IQ range (Sternberg, 2003). This method has been criticized because there is no apparent reason to set the threshold at a given IQ score. In an attempt to overcome this problem, a study was conducted in 2013 (Jauk et. al) to investigate the relationship between intelligence and different indicators of creative potential (ability to generate something novel and useful) and creative achievement (actual realization of this potential in real-life accomplishments). This was done using segmented regression analysis in a sample of 297 individuals, which facilitates the detection of threshold in data by means of iterative computational algorithms. Participants were required to complete four subtests of the Intelligence Structure Battery (figural-inductive reasoning, verbal short-term memory, arithmetic flexibility, word meaning) for general intelligence, an alternative uses test for creative potential and the Inventory of Creative Achievements. In the end, a threshold was found for creative potential, but not for creative achievement, which suggests that while intelligence and creative potential are highly related up to a point where they have no influence on each other, there is no apparent relationship between intelligence and the actual fulfilment of that potential. It should be noted that the study had limitations such as the size of the sample and the IQ range of the participants.

In response to the fact that most contemporary research focuses on the idea that creativity and intelligence are unrelated, Nusbaum and Silvia (2011) conducted a study based on improved approaches to creativity measurement, which proposes that fluid and executive cognition is actually central to creative thought. The participants were 178 women and 48 men, all of them university students. In the first phase of the experiment, the effect of fluid intelligence on creativity was observed by giving the individuals divergent thinking tasks and measuring their executive switching (the number of times people switched idea categories). In the second phase, half the sample were told what strategy they should use in an Unusual Uses test, which was then administered to the entire sample. People with high fluid thinking did better when they knew the strategy, which was consistent with their ability to access and use it in spite of interference, while for the people with lower fluid thinking, the strategy tended to slip. By combining the results of the two phases, the experimenters suggested that creativity is probably more convergent than modern theories assume.

In conclusion, views on the relationship between intelligence and creativity are extremely varied and there is evidence to be found for each of them. Probably the greatest problem of this area of research is finding a suitable definition for the abstract concept of creativity, but maybe there is a need for a new and creative perspective on the matter to finally decipher it.



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