Intelligence and creativity share a common cognitive and neural basis.

Emily Frith, Daniel B. Elbich, Alexander P. Christensen, Monica D. Rosenberg, Qunlin Chen, Michael J. Kane, Paul J. Silvia, Paul Seli, Roger E. Beaty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Are intelligence and creativity distinct abilities, or do they rely on the same cognitive and neural systems? We sought to quantify the extent to which intelligence and creative cognition overlap in brain and behavior by combining machine learning of fMRI data and latent variable modeling of cognitive ability data in a sample of young adults (N = 186) who completed a battery of intelligence and creative thinking tasks. The study had 3 analytic goals: (a) to assess contributions of specific facets of intelligence (e.g., fluid and crystallized intelligence) and general intelligence to creative ability (i.e., divergent thinking originality), (b) to model whole-brain functional connectivity networks that predict intelligence facets and creative ability, and (c) to quantify the degree to which these predictive networks overlap in the brain. Using structural equation modeling, we found moderate to large correlations between intelligence facets and creative ability, as well as a large correlation between general intelligence and creative ability (r = .63). Using connectome-based predictive modeling, we found that functional brain networks that predict intelligence facets overlap to varying degrees with a network that predicts creative ability, particularly within the prefrontal cortex of the executive control network. Notably, a network that predicted general intelligence shared 46% of its functional connections with a network that predicted creative ability—including connections linking executive control and salience/ventral attention networks—suggesting that intelligence and creative thinking rely on similar neural and cognitive systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)609-632
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 29 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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