Verbal fluency and creativity: General and specific contributions of broad retrieval ability (Gr) factors to divergent thinking

Paul J. Silvia, Roger E. Beaty, Emily C. Nusbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

187 Scopus citations


The Cattell-Horn-Carroll (CHC) model of intelligence views creativity as a first-level factor within the second-level factor of broad retrieval ability (Gr), alongside other first-level abilities such as ideational fluency and word fluency. Traditional methods of measuring creativity, however, confound idea quality with idea quantity, which might exaggerate the relationship between creativity scores and verbal fluency factors. Participants (n=131 adults) completed two divergent thinking tasks (unusual uses for a rope and a box), which were scored using newer methods that effectively separate creativity (scored via subjective ratings) and fluency (scored as number of responses). They then completed 16 verbal fluency tasks that assessed six lower-order Gr factors: word fluency, associational fluency, associative flexibility, ideational fluency, letter fluency, and dissociative ability. Viewed singly, many of the lower-order factors significantly predicted creative quality and fluency. General Gr had substantial effects on creative quality (standardized β=443) and fluency (β=339) in a higher-order model as well as in a bifactor model (quality β=380, fluency β=327). Moreover, general Gr was the only significant predictor in the bifactor model, suggesting that it, not the specific factors, was most important. All effects were essentially the same after controlling for typing speed and vocabulary knowledge. The findings thus support the CHC view of creativity/originality as a lower-order component of Gr, illuminate the relationships between creativity and first-level Gr factors, extend the study of creativity and intelligence beyond fluid intelligence, and further indicate that creativity is more closely tied to cognitive abilities than creativity research has yet recognized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)328-340
Number of pages13
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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