What makes a highly creative person

[stangl] test: intelligence and creativity

Like intelligence, creativity is a concept on a high level of abstraction. There are dozens of counselors out there claiming creativity can be learned, and training programs have been developed to do just that divergent thinking should train, that is, the ability to draw unusual conclusions. Especially behind the familiar brainstorming was the thought that whenever people produce a lot of ideas, at some point there will also be a good one. Finally, an attempt was made to turn people into systematic problem solvers. It has been shown over time that creativity only trainable to a very limited extent. is. According to Guilford, creative people are characterized by an increased sensitivity to problems, their thinking is very fluid, which means that, for example, they are able to find an extremely large number of possible uses for a brick within a very short time. A classic among creativity tasks is therefore the brick test, which is about finding as many original uses for a brick as humanly possible. Such exercises do not make people more creative, because what they learn in such exercises is difficult to apply to other situations transfer.

For a long time, psychological research has concentrated on researching the personality of creatives (see below), but the result is rather little, because creative achievements are less about the person than they are Stimulation by the situation. In addition, creative people have great originality and flexibility of thinking. We know from many studies that intelligent people therefore are more creative, as their brain works faster, more efficiently and more concentrated than the average more intelligent and therefore a fundamentally higher one potential for creative achievements. Studies of the brain activity of creative people prove that intelligence promotes the generation of ideas through a resource-saving way of working, especially the Working memory plays an important role, because this working memory can process five to nine information units at the same time. Intelligent people bundle information units in Chunks", whereby this ability is particularly advantageous when making decisions with many influencing factors, because people who cannot bundle have to activate more areas of the brain for the same task than others, so they consume additional energy, which hinders the development and creation of ideas This influences the Working speed the brain's creative performance, because a comparatively slow rhythm is beneficial for creative processes, whereby creative people cannot think more slowly but can only switch quickly between low and high activity. Such a slow brain rhythms arises from Daydreaming, whereby creative people are able to switch from phases of dreaming to phases of total concentration, in which intelligence is required. Although memory is strengthened in sleep by consolidating memories, it does find it no new networking instead of, d. That is, there is no creative new memory content. The creative processing of information is therefore no stronger in sleep than in the waking state, i. In other words, the more complex a task, the less influence it has on the creative processing of information. An essential characteristic of creativity is also that motivation and the EnthusiasmWhat can be observed in some children who are bubbling over with ideas and want to try everything, while older people find it rather difficult to get enthusiastic about something based on supposed experiences.

Creative people are often unable to provide reliable information on how they came up with a new or innovative idea, but rather give the impression that a brilliant idea came to them spontaneously. But behind a supposedly spontaneous idea there is usually many years of hard and consistent work, because creative people usually stick to their project for a long time, pursue a vision for years and do not give up, although others smile at them or ridicule them. Ideas usually do not arise at the desk, but in the mountains, on the local train, on a bus trip or simply on a walk. With mental problems it is sometimes important to indulge in a rather monotonous activity such as driving a car, ironing, vacuuming or cooking, because this distracts the brain from the well-trodden paths and can look for a creative solution on the side. Many creative results also depend on the coincidence that you can only control to a limited extent, so you should look for a creative environment to come up with new ideas. By the way: In the history of science, some report that the solution to their scientific problems came to them in their sleep. The chemist Kekulè saw the ring structure of benzene in a dream, Mendelejeff the periodic table of the elements, Otto Loewi had a key dream in which he saw which experiment he could use to confirm his assumption that nerve cells communicate with messenger substances Neurotransmitters.

According to König (1986), the difference between intelligence and creativity is:

  • intelligence is logical, conclusive, evaluative thinking that seeks a correct solution to tasks and problems (convergent Thinking) while
  • creativity is fluent, flexible, original thinking that is looking for alternative solutions to tasks and problems (divergent Thinking), whereby the performance should not only be new, but also useful, problem-oriented and aesthetic.

However, creative thinking can also be understood as an interplay between divergent and convergent thinking, because the knowledge base can be a prerequisite for the more intuitive grasp of the solution idea. Creative achievements are characterized by sensitivity to problems, fluency in thinking, flexibility of ideas and originality. In the system of Cattell (1973):

L data (life data): Creativity is defined both by the qualitative aspect of the uniqueness and novelty of scientific or artistic productions and by the quantitative aspect of productivity
L'-data (external assessments): External assessments of creativity can be geared towards creative products and creativity as a personal characteristic
Q data (self-assessments): Self-assessment methods for recording creativity focus on the characteristics of the person, whereby data on general personality variables, attitudes and interests as well as previous creative activities and achievements can be differentiated.
T data (test data): Tests on divergent thinking emerged from the attempt to also assess divergent (multi-pronged) thinking in addition to convergent thinking, which is recorded using the usual intelligence tests. The focus of the development of such tests was on the conception of test tasks that contain comparatively low restrictions and allow a large number of alternative solutions.

Results are evaluated according to accuracy (The idea must have a recognizable relation to the question), content (Ideas are assigned to predefined content categories), originality (Assessment of how remote or how "clever" an idea is), Elaboration (Number of details contained in the incidence).

Creative solutions to problems are characterized by the fact that elements that are normally far away from the mind are linked in such a way that the result is perceived as subjectively new, therefore creative problem solutions are usually also as Restructuring to understand from known. But creativity is not a uniform performance. There are different levels of creativity (e.g. situation-specific production of funny ideas to Einstein's theory of relativity). When describing the process of creative problem solving, several can be used Phases differentiate (Haseloff 1971, p. 89f):

  • In the phase of Problematization problems are recognized, contradictions tracked down, self-evident issues are questioned, gaps in knowledge and experience are identified and certainties that were previously accepted as unquestionable are rejected.
  • In the exploration the problem area is explored from different points by restructuring and organizing experiences, information and knowledge. This exploratory phase does not end with decisions; rather, alternative and even contradicting perspectives and attempts to explain remain equally valid.
  • The Incubation has been the least explored so far. In this phase, the problem appears to be forgotten, accompanied by emotional relaxation. In doing so, experiences and experiments are reorganized in a vivid or symbolic manner, not translated into language. This apparently calm incubation phase represents the immediate preparation of the
  • Heuristic regression It is subjectively characterized by the experience of spontaneously emerging possible solutions, which are dealt with in a playful manner, which are changed and supplemented, which are accepted on a trial basis and then discarded again. The sliding back to a child-like and dramatized, at the same time ambiguous, reality encounter creates an operational level that is relieved of the burden of norms and conventions and on which the creative idea can develop. The final selection of the most promising solution idea ends the heuristic regression. This phase is considered by some to be the center of the creative process, because the apparent return to a childlike mentality, the alternation between tension and relaxation enable the finding of a surprising idea for a solution. The spontaneous emergence is called inspiration or Illumination designated.
  • In the Elaboration the unfinished solution approach found in the heuristic regression is systematically worked out and translated into a language that is understandable for those who are also confronted with the problem and who are at the same time consumers and beneficiaries of the solution. The creative idea can be communicated.
  • The diffusion seems to be only superficially related to the creative process. It describes the process that spreads and enforces a creative achievement. This goes hand in hand with a certain popularization and inclusion in everyday life.

Ernst Pöppel (Munich Institute for Medical Psychology) believes that there is a "Creativity jam"there that could explode if the offices in all institutions were to get out of the pressure to communicate for an hour a day". Creativity mainly takes place in those moments of mental calm, i.e. when you are not in the Hamster wheel who sits busy and stubbornly does his work. The consciously experienced breaks are important, because slowing down, laziness and idleness are essential prerequisites for creativity. From the point of view of brain research, doing nothing is not a phase of neuronal inactivity, but in this idle mode, similar to sleep, some brain centers are particularly active in order to let what has just been learned or experienced "go through the head" again (cf. Briseño, 2010).

In a study by Getzels & Jackson (1962) with N = 499 students with an IQ not below 132 (SD = 15), the creativity tests correlated with each other to about the same level as with the IQ (r = .27 or .30). In the German-speaking area, intelligence / creativity correlations of r = .48 and r = .44 were found in the studies by Grote & Hajek (1969) and Krause (1972). Wallach & Kogan (1965) examined the aspect of the default condition "without time limit" and came to the results that are shown in the following overview:

Mean intercorrelations within and between procedures for measuring creativity and intelligence


(N = 151)

(N = 70)

(N = 81)

between creativity tests
(n = 45)




between creativity and intelligence tests
(n = 100)




A replication attempt by Nijsse (1975) was negative; the time limit only affected the (then lower) mean values ​​and variances. Guilford (1967) comes to the following conclusion from his investigations: Although high intelligence is not synonymous with creativity, high creativity is an indispensable prerequisite for above-average intelligence. The research by Yasomoto (1965) showed a similar result, but the correlation with creativity decreased with increasing IQ.

Jäger (1967) compared 63 creativity tests. As a result, he came to four highly general performance classes characterized by their operational peculiarities:

  • Processing speed (B)
  • Memory (G)
  • Ingenuity / creativity (E)
  • Processing capacity (K)

In addition to the operation classes B, G, and K, of which K in particular is considered a prototype of an intelligence factor in the tradition of psychometric intelligence research, there is an equally general creativity factor (E). Creativity is thus presented as a basic dimension of intellectual behavior. In 1981, Jäger & Hörmann showed that "the same set of performance variables is divided by four basic dimensions of intelligence (G, E, B, K) as well as" g "(general intelligence) can be described. "

König carried out a similar investigation in 1981 and also found the variables memory, processing capacity and processing speed as well as a general, reliable and reproducible dimension "ingenuity", which in a further analysis was divided into more specific subgroups. If, on the other hand, the creative and intelligent achievements were analyzed in the context of motivation, temperament, interest and self-assessment characteristics, creativity and intelligence formed a unit that can be described as "general intellectual performance". König's results showed that it is a question of the generality level, whether divergent and convergent performances are grouped into distinguishable performance classes, or whether divergent and convergent performances in the system of the whole personality form a complex construct of general intellectual performance.

The correlation between creativity and school performance is 0.33, with teachers preferring to teach highly intelligent than highly creative students, as the latter tend to show restless behavior, ask questions more often that prevent teachers from continuing with the material or that they have problems answering. Highly intelligent people differ from highly creative people in terms of their personality in that they attach great importance to success, while creative people tend to appreciate humor and it is important to them to get on well with other people.

Some scientists suspect one too genetic influence in the creation of creativity. When examining the genetic make-up of 200 people, the variants of the Neuregulin 1 gene were related to the creativity of the individual, whereby most of the creativity points reached the test participants whose gene variants are also associated with the highest risk of psychosis. Neuregulin influences, among other things, the development of brain cells and regulates the flexibility of the contact points as well as the communication between the neurons. The gene occurs in a C and a T variant, although it has already been shown that people who have inherited the T variant from both parents are more prone to psychosis or schizophrenia than those who have at least one C copy exhibit in their genetic make-up. The claim that is sometimes made that genius and madness are closely related could thus be confirmed. However, the group of people examined was not representative and only contained very educated, intelligent and generally creative people.

Creativity and giftedness

Very often, intellectually gifted people are expected to have creative potential in addition to their above-average intelligence (Sparfeld et al., 2009, p. 31). However, because creativity is difficult to define, creativity tests are often carried out. Sparfeld emphasizes that particular attention is paid to "fluidity", "flexibility" and "originality". Creativity and intelligence have a substantial linear relationship to one another, whereupon different models are worked through.In the case of variance-restricted and small samples, such as the threshold model, based on a minimum intelligence level of IQ = 120, there is hardly any relationship between the two variables. However, a design of the experiment with similar IQ scores but with different samples showed that there is a relationship between creativity and intelligence. Whether there is a substantial linear relationship between intelligence and creativity can often not be determined on the basis of the different results and studies, because their different priorities lead to results that are not comparable with one another. The question of whether the gifted or average gifted in primary and secondary school are more creative or not is accompanied by the question of what effects gender has on the development of creativity in children and adolescents. This was done with the help of the Marburg gifted project (Sparfeld et al., 2009, p. 32f). Furthermore, the investigations of this project showed that gifted children and adolescents achieved better results in terms of their creativity than the average gifted. Two groups of young people were also examined, with the finding that the highly gifted young people were the “stable gifted” and the average gifted were the “stable average gifted”. Subsequently, the “Heidelberg Intelligence Test”, a “test for creative thinking - drawing” was carried out in elementary school pupils as well as in adolescents. The assessment agreement of the trained test supervisors was very good here. This examination was carried out one afternoon without the parents being present. For the evaluation, creativity factor values ​​were determined on the creativity general factor of elementary school students and young people. The development of creativity was calculated using the variables gender, talent and time (Sparfeld et al., 2009, p. 35). In the last-mentioned creativity test, it can be seen that the creativity values ​​of highly gifted people in elementary school and highly gifted people in adolescence are higher than those of average people. The longitudinal view shows, based on the Marburg gifted project (Sparfeld et al., 2009, p. 35), that drawing creativity was moderately stable among primary school students and young people. Based on an identical instruction, such as completing a developed image template, their drawing creativity was tested. However, since the different samples did not always match, creativity aspects, such as statistically rare ideas and the productivity of the test subjects, should also be taken into account. In creativity tests, it should also be taken into account whether the test persons come from higher social classes, whether they have psychometric weaknesses or whether self-selection and external selection effects can be assumed.

Does boredom promote creativity?

Even when people do nothing, their brains are still active, particularly those brain regions that play a central role when new, original ideas are developed. Studies have attempted to clarify whether doing nothing really leads to increased creativity. In a recently published study it was found that test subjects can actually visualize things better precisely when the visual cortex is less active, which sounds counter-intuitive at first, because brain areas that process sensory stimuli are always most active when they are through External stimuli are stimulated. If these external stimuli cease to exist, or if they are less activated by them, internal signals that are sent from other brain areas to sensory areas such as the visual cortex are apparently easier to perceive. Keogh et al. (2020) both for comparisons between persons and within a person, whereby in those who had a stronger visual imagination, the visual cortex was less active and excitable. However, if the activity of the visual cortex was reduced with the help of transcranial direct current stimulation, the subjects were able to increase their imagination. A heightened imagination is enormously beneficial to creative ideas, but there are also other regions of the brain such as the Default Mode Network, which influences that boredom or lack of stimulus stimulate creativity.

The Default mode network extends over many areas of the brain and includes parts of the prefrontal brain in the forehead area, the posterior cingulate cortex in the interior of the brain, the middle temporal lobe and the upper parietal lobe. The activity of this network goes hand in hand with daydreaming and a person is all the more creative the more certain parts are networked with one another. Obviously, the crucial factor is the networking between the prefrontal and parietal parts of the network, i.e. between the frontal and parietal lobes, which determines how flexibly people can control their thinking and behavior. Other components of the default mode network are also crucial for ingenuity, such as the middle temporal lobe (medial temporal cortex). This is of central importance for the ability to store knowledge, to remember past events and to imagine future ones. If you are in a creative process of creation, you basically do nothing other than reconnect existing knowledge, memories and existing information with one another, so that it is obvious that the medial temporal lobe is also important for such thought processes. A study by Thakral et al. (2020) supports this assumption, because it used transcranial magnetic stimulation to inhibit the activity in a part of the hippocampus that belongs to the medial temporal cortex. As expected, this not only ensured that the study participants thought through fewer details of future events, but they also produced fewer creative ideas. However, if you inhibited another area of ​​the brain, this effect disappeared.

Note: A less active visual cortex and a more active default mode network, i.e. boredom and idleness, can inspire creativity, but it cannot be assumed that boredom generally leads to increased inventiveness, because there are also factors that could reduce it. Whether people have creative flashes of inspiration also depends on their mood and their state of activation, because if people are angry or happy, original ideas are much more likely than if they are sad, melancholy or just calm and relaxed.

Creativity and multilingualism

According to a study by Onysko (2016) in New Zealand, multilingual people think more creatively and flexibly, because they think less linearly, their thoughts are more broadly dispersed and therefore tend to come up with ideas outside the mainstream. That was recorded divergent thinking, which is presumably promoted in multilingual people by more speech activity in the brain and therefore increases the ability to associate flexibly.

See also the Test practice

Literature on creativity

Bollinger, G. (1981). Measurement of creativity through tests on divergent thinking? Journal for Differential and Diagnostic Psychology, 2, pp. 87-106.

Briseño, Cinthia (2010). A break makes you productive.
http://www.spiegel.de/wissenschaft/mensch/0,1518,707465,00.html (10-07-24)

Heller, K. A. (1987). Gifted diagnosis. Journal for Differential and Diagnostic Psychology, 8, pp. 155-240. Krampen, G. (1993). Diagnostics of creativity. In Trost, G., Ingenkamp, ​​K. & Jäger, R. S. Tests and Trends 10. Weinheim, Basel: Beltz.

Keogh, Rebecca, Bergmann, Johanna, Pearson, Joel, Kahnt, Thorsten, de Lange, Floris P., Dijkstra, Nadine (2020). Cortical excitability controls the strength of mental imagery. eLife, doi: 10.7554 / eLife.50232.

Onysko, A. (2016). Enhanced creativity in bilinguals? Evidence from meaning interpretations of novel compounds. International Journal of Bilingualism, 20, 315-334.

Sparfeld, J. R., Wirthwein, L. & Rost, D.H. (2009). Gifted and unimaginative? For the creativity of intellectually gifted children and young people. Journal of Educational Psychology, 23, 31-39.

Thakral, Preston P., Madore, Kevin P., Kalinowski, Sarah E., Schacter, Daniel L. (2020). Modulation of hippocampal brain networks produces changes in episodic simulation and divergent thinking. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117, 12729-12740.

https://scilogs.spektrum.de/thinky-brain/produktiv-langeweile/ (20-07-29)

http://www.focus.de/gesundheit/ratgeber/psychologie/news/psychologie-gen-fuer-genie-und-wahnsinn-entdeck_aid_440210.html (09-09-30)



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