Chapter 7: Factors Affecting Creative Intelligence

Fyodorov’s musings on creative intelligence once again inspired my blog post this week, particularly his line, “Some people are born to make great art and others are born to appreciate it.” As someone with a dismally low level of artistic creativity but a great appreciation for art, I agree with Fyodorov on a personal level, but I wanted to investigate whether his assertion is true on a more general scale. Are some people born with a natural proclivity for creating art while others are left to observe?

One component that has been thought to correlate with creative intelligence is visual-spatial divergent thinking, the brain’s method of developing several different solutions to a single problem using holistic mental models. This contrasts with convergent thinking, which involves arriving at a single solution by focusing on the details or sequence of a problem (Guilford 138, 171). While a person’s ability to think divergently is tied to their overall intelligence, it is not typically measured in intelligence tests, which may explain why some of the Nobel Prize winners I learned about in my last post did not meet the IQ threshold to be considered geniuses. In past decades, psychologists theorized that creative geniuses would need to have a strong connection between the two hemispheres of their brains in order to convert the divergent thinking of the right hemisphere with the creative output of the left (Bogen). In a 2009 study conducted at Cornell University, researchers contradicted this theory by measuring a person’s ability to think divergently using the figural portion of the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (in which participants must combine given lines and shapes to form a model) and analyzing the relative size and activity of the participants’ brains using magnetic resonance imaging (Moore 268). The researchers found a strong negative correlation between a person’s score on the TTCT test and the size of the corpus callosum, a band of never fibers that unite the left and right hemispheres. This suggests that the greater the separation of thinking between the two hemispheres, the better each is allowed to develop ideas involved in divergent thinking, and thus creative pursuits (Moore 271).

Other studies have linked creative intelligence to one’s genetic code, suggesting that one’s ability to create art could be hereditary. Researchers at the University of Helsinki looked at what they call copy number variations, which are basically deletion or duplication mutations in a person’s genetic code, within families and non-related individuals. Each participant was administered three separate tests that measured their “music aptitude,” including their abilities to assess the pitch and timing in music and their capacity for composing, improvising, and arranging music. The team observed that the copy number variations or mutations that correlate with brain plasticity (the capability to sever connections between brain cells and form new ones) had higher levels of music aptitude as well as people with duplication mutations in the genes that affect the production of serotonin. Within the study, the researchers found that these mutations were highly heritable among the families they tested, which indicates that the biological assets that lead to musical creativity are inherited (Ukkola). This study’s discovery about brain plasticity recalls Roberta E. Ness’s book Genius Unmasked that I sited in last week’s blog post in which she notes that the creative processes of geniuses like Albert Einstein are largely dependent on the ability to break from frames of reference and create new models that better help them understand complex, intangible ideas.

There is clearly some link between our genes and our level of creativity, but does that mean that we are either born with artistic ability or not? Much of the research on the subject focuses on the neuropsychological aspect, but are there non-biological factors that contribute to the development of creative intelligence? Coming back to the gender roles that seem to pervade scholarship on intelligence, E. Paul Torrance, who actually designed the creativity tests used in the aforementioned Cornell study, claims that boys become “increasingly superior” in creative intelligence to girls in the early elementary school years. He believes the difference can be attributed to the fact that creative males are rewarded for their ideas by their teachers more often and consider their creative contributions to be more valuable than girls do (Torrance 178). Motivation does seem to be an important factor in developing creativity as evidenced by a study in which researchers took students who scored very low on creativity tests and placed them in response groups. One group of students was given verbal reinforcement for their remarks during the session, while the other group was not. Asked to give responses to a set of questions at the beginning and end of the study, the students who had received positive verbal reinforcement for their creativity in the sessions improved the creativity of their responses far more than students with no reinforcement (Griffith 229-230). This study suggests that children who grow up in households in which their parents support their creative endeavors would be more likely to demonstrate creative intelligence later in life, so perhaps creativity can be attributed to more than just our genes.

As I was researching this week, I found connections between many of the sources I explored for this blog post and the one I wrote last week. One observation that I found particularly interesting is that people with high creative intelligence are more likely to have mutations that affect their production of serotonin, a hormone that also happens to be related to a number of psychological disorders. Could this be the link that leads to the so-called “tortured intellectual” phenomena that affected such creative thinkers as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Edgar Allen Poe? Or do people with mental illness happen to use creative outlets as a means of therapy? I think that the relationship between intelligence and mental illness is a topic I want to pursue in my research, and I would particularly like to look at it from a literary perspective, perhaps applying psychological research to famous authors or creative genius characters in fiction.


Works Cited

Bogen, J. E., and G. M. Bogen. “Creativity and the Corpus Callosum.” The Psychiatric Clinics of North America 11.3 (1988): 293–301. Print.

Griffith, Dan R., and Philip M. Clark. “Motivation, Intelligence, and Creative Behavior in Elementary School Children of Low-Creative Ability.” The Journal of Experimental Education 49.4 (1981): 229–234. Print.

Guilford, Joy Paul. The Nature of Human Intelligence. McGraw-Hill, 1967. Print.

Moore, Dana, and Rafeeque A. Bhadelia. “Hemispheric Connectivity and the Visual-Spatial Divergent-Thinking Component of Creativity.” Carl E. Fulwiler 70.3 (2009): Web.

Ukkola-Vuoti, Liisa et al. “Genome-Wide Copy Number Variation Analysis in Extended Families and Unrelated Individuals Characterized for Musical Aptitude and Creativity in Music.” PLoS ONE 8.2 (2013): PubMed Central. Web. 14 Oct. 2015.


4 thoughts on “Chapter 7: Factors Affecting Creative Intelligence

  1. hcelemen says:

    Your findings are very well thought out and thorough. The topic you pursued this week is very interesting. I thought that making the connections between the creative thinking and genetics opened up further avenues for you to research. I see that the biological aspects contributing to creativity initially sparked your curiosity, but I liked that you took it even further by then questioning what the non-biological factors are. Your findings yielded results pertaining to social interaction as it differs between genders. I was most drawn by this portion of your post because I can’t help but agree. It is upsetting that boys should receive more acknowledgements and rewards for their creativity than girls. However, this finding did contradict the stereotype that girls do better academically than boys. Therefore, don’t boys also deal with this issue because girls are just expected to be more hard working and have better grades than them? Growing up, we are easily influenced by our environment and the interactions we have, so the lack of positive reinforcement and lack of encouragements for creativity would explain the resulting creative inhibition.

    As children, we seem to be conditioned to fit the mold that society has set for us. Traditionally, females were expected to be submissive/follow while males were expected to take on the dominating/lead role. This gender stereotype seems to be an ongoing issue since it is always coming up in our discussions. However, I’m really glad you focused more on the children because most biases starts here. Children are most vulnerable to these stereotypes and biases because they are just learning to become more individualized and starting to develop their own perspectives of their world. Psychology has proven just how influential positive and negative reinforcements are when conditioning a living being to behave a certain way. It would be interesting if you could learn more about the expectations parents have for their children. I suggest researching this avenue because it counts as a non-biological factor and what we would consider as “nurture” that affects the child’s development. For example, some parents want their children to grow up well rounded. My aunt signed her children up for different sports activities and music lessons that she believes would greatly benefit them in the future. It’s like building up a resume early by accumulating and developing a certain set of skills. The question is, can parents mold “creative geniuses” that may or may not be predisposed to having a sense of creativity. Furthermore, I would like to know how willing the children are in taking these music lessons? Can they enjoy music even when they are being forced into it?

    Further avenues I believe you can take this topic further explores how creative intelligence applies to the broader spectrum of innovators that lead us to the era of modernization. Is the rate of creative thinkers coming forth to produce their works greater now than it was back then? If so, what significant factors contributed to this change? Will creativity continue to push against the boundaries of reality and what we believe possible now or will it eventually become stagnant? Furthermore, is creativity part of the human evolution and a contributing factor to our long survival?

    – Hannah


  2. sariegel says:

    After hearing your discussion of your research in class, I was so excited to read your blogpost. I love that you decided to dive into the nature versus nurture argument as it applies to creative genius. I’m not surprised to find that it is somewhat a biological phenomenon. It does seem that some people are born with extraordinary abilities, which does relate back to the idea of gifts that we’ve been discussing so much in class. The actual genetic and neurological indicators of creative genius are fascinating. I suppose the hereditary aspect of genius should not be that surprising either. Your explanation of hereditary musical aptitude made me think of a certain theory I have that siblings are often able to harmonize with or musically complement each other more easily.

    I can’t wait to see what you discover about literary genius and mental illness. Though I don’t know much about this particular mental illness, I feel like you could find some interesting correlations between creativity and schizophrenia. It might be interesting to do your own sort of case study of a particular mental illness within your research paper. It sounds like you already have some ideas of who you might want to research. I personally thought of Emily Dickinson, who reclusively lived out her life inside of her house. Some feminist scholars argue that male literary geniuses are often seen as using their creativity to rise above their circumstances while female literary geniuses are often seen as simply using their creativity to cope. As such, I think it will be interesting to see what kind of unconscious bias you uncover as you look into this. As you said in your post, gender does seem to accompany many conversations about creativity, genius, and education.


  3. annawallace003 says:


    I along with you didn’t receive a large amount of artistic ability and so I was intrigued to read about your findings. Your initial question was definitely supported by the studies you were able to find and it is clear that your question shifted to a much more specific topic by the time that you reached the end of the post. I agree that this would be an excellent topic to pursue for the final research paper and I would be curious to read about how you would take a literary approach towards it.
    I can see how this type of talent could be passed down from generation to generation but I was especially curious to read the piece about how it can be developed by the way a person is raised. This caused me to make a parallel to sports because many kids grow up playing from a very young and then continue to play for as long as they possibly can. I wonder if the study that you mentioned would also support the role of sports? There are a multitude of scenarios that you could analyze to see if it this stretches beyond the category of creativity.
    I noticed that you have a good selection of sources that were able to give your post a very well rounded amount of information to support your research question. I look forward to reading more in the future blog posts to see how you are able to focus in on this topic.
    Keep up the good work,



  4. katelynzander says:

    Learning about the creative mind is a tough topic, but you have chosen very direct means of thinking about this complicated idea. The multiple studies you have found show some very interesting thoughts about how the creative mind comes from and what enables it to become creative. I believe to some degree that creative is some sort of heredity thing that can be found in our genes. However, I think there could also be the parenting styles of someone who is creative and how they raise their child in contrast to someone who is more analytically driven and how they would raise their child. It would seem that a creative parent would create games and learning devices that would allow their child for creative expression, while an analytical parent would create mind puzzles and other stimulating games for the child. While this is a just a hypothesis I believe it would be a subconscious parenting style because this would be how their mind works.
    Perhaps researching or finding case studies on the parents of creative’s vs parents of people with abnormally high IQs could generate an interesting avenue for further research. I really enjoy where you are taking your research with the mental illness and seeing why they are commonly creatives. You mentioned that you have “a dismally low level of artistic creativity but a great appreciation for art” but being artistic and a creator spans more than just producing something visuals. You’re an English major, your artistic expression is through words rather than something more visual like a painting. I can’t wait to see what you find to support this topic or to what other questions in will lead you to!


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