Plenary: The Creative Person: Neuropsychological Perspectives


Fredrik Ullen (Karolinska Institutet): Has been doing research on creativity

Creativity definition: Two criteria

1. Novel or original
2. Functional/meaningful

How to study creativity: experimentally or by examining neurological processes , reductively.

Creativity and psychopathology: “no great mind was without a mixture of insanity” (Seneca/Aristotle)

Empirical research shows relatives of psychotics have more creativity. Schizophrenics more likely to enter the arts; less likely to enter science, ditto for bipolar disorder. So creativity is statistically correlated with psychopathology. But why? Common

Creativity and personality: measured by self-report questionnaires or third party evaluation, statistical evaluation.

The “Big Five” model as predictor of creativity:

1. Openness (positive correlation)
2. Conscientiousness (negative correlation)
3. Extraversion
4. Agreeableness
5. Neuroticism

Research also shows that creative people have complex, contradictory personalities. Intense periods of interpersonal contact; periods of solitary work, extroversion (igh dominance, low socail warmth). Possible link with hypomanic periods of bipolar disorder. High playfuleness, discipine only within area of interest. Interplay of fantasy and reality.

Cognitive ability: General agreement that “g” is an accurate measure of cognitive ability. Convergent thinking focuses on a single solution; divergent thinking on multiple solutions. Different ways to measure divergency. Creative people tend to rate highly on divergent thinking; low rates of thalamic dopamine D2.

Flow and Inspiration:

Flow: experience of high concentration, loss of self-awareness, control., automaticity, altered time perception, high sense of control. Associated with high skill and high challenge. Mostly measured by verbal reports. Flow positively associates with creativity in seven domains: science, invention, music, visual arts, etc.

Flow –> intrinsic motivation –> engagement –> creativity

Motivation matters since research shows that training predicts performance. Moreover, there is always room to improve, even when one is experienced. So practice motivates competence and competence motivates practice.

It’s still difficult to measure the physiological states associated with flow. But smile reflex correlates positively; heart rate negatively.

Inspiration: High motivation, evocation (external trigger), correlates with creativity.

The Creative Person:

playful, rebel, divergent thinker, extravert, unconventional, links to psychopathology, non-conforming. These factors multiply each other; creativity is an emergent property created by other traits.


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