Creativity And High IQ

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Bright Minds Create Differently

A study by the MIND Research Network’s Rex Jung, an assistant professor at The University of New Mexico Department of Neurosurgery, shows that high IQ (120 and above, or the top 9%) minds operate differently when forming creative thoughts.

By scanning the brains of 56 college-age students he found that a chemical associated with creativity called N-acetylaspartate, or NAA, works more discretely in the frontal lobe of those with high IQs than it does in those with average IQs.

“It’s a funny kind of finding, and I wish I knew why,” Jung said…

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4 Responses to “Creativity And High IQ”

  1. Will says:

    A few comments: One, I don’t think you can empirically test for creativity the way you can for intelligence. Creativity tests are not terribly reliable. Creativity in my own definition is just mental flow. There is nothing really wonderful about it, per se, but is very valuable to have a high quantity of ideas and concepts pushing through one’s brain. Creativity without a high level of intelligence to modulate it is rarely a product of fascination in a socially meaningful way. Andy Warhol is said to have an IQ of 85, but I think that number was put on him by Gore Vidal, who said something to the effect that Warhol was the only genius he knew to have an IQ so low, indicating a sort of savant nature of the man who brought us brillo boxes.

    Generally, very creative people have very high IQ’s (120+), a number that has been borne out by many studies (such as those done by Roe’s scientists and mathematicians, as well as Baron’s creative writers). Even Howard Gardner has admitted that top artistic and scientific talent tends to come from the top 10% of the IQ distribution, which the pro G factor people say is merely a “starting point” for creative genius to occur with averages falling in the 95-98%ile. For instance, a study of writers at the University of Iowa (most prestigious writing program in the US) had them averaged out at 125, presumably tested on the WAIS.

    Here’s another interesting article on creativity and IQ that jibes more closely with my intuitive feelings about the correlations of creativity and intelligence. (My thinking is intelligence and creativity are very closely related and different expressions of the same mental force or energy).

    Here’s an article that found a correlation between IQ and creativity, which has been largely dismissed (I think erroneously so but then again I think the wild nature of creativity defies statistical analysis).


    “Whether IQ tests are the best way to measure intelligence is debatable, but some studies do show a correlation between high IQ and creativity. Such studies conclude that the two increase together up to a score of 120. Beyond that level, little increase in creativity has been found. (The average IQ score of the general population is 100.)

    “We didn’t find this,” Carson notes. “We saw creativity increase as IQs climb to 130 (the average score of Harvard students), and even up to 150.”

    To sum up: I see a correlation between intelligence and creativity but I think this could probably be found by extracting G factor from reaction time measures where speed of information processing at a base level is
    compared with rate of ideation. This is probably where the correlation is greatest (though I lack data for a hypothesis). But if the G factor can be found at a lower level than where convergent/divergent thinking arises (that is, on a physiological, rather than psychological level, and strangely enough G factor is found just as strong in these types of measures than it is on visual reasoning or Verbal tests) then I think we might see a much tighter correlation. But then, creativity will probably always get it’s wish of being that which is completely statistically unanalyzable and continue to confound the studies. I tend to think we should continue to chase down intelligence, it’s properties and importance, but we leave creativity alone
    as it’s proven to be a psychometric dead end. But, I could be very wrong.

  2. Will says:

    More relevant to BFpro and its inhabitants, is this snippet from the article re working memory:

    “Bothered by the nebulousness of IQ tests, Carson is seeking to find “more specific functions” that protect creative people from going nuts. Work already done suggests that a good working memory, the capacity to keep in mind many things at once, can serve such a function. “This should help you to better process the increasing information that goes along with low latent inhibition,” Carson explains. “We’re doing more experiments to determine if that is so.”

    Again, though, perhaps the focus should be less on “IQ” than on the G factor which can be derived in different ways. After all, what’s nebulous about choice reaction time measures?

  3. martin says:

    Hi Will.

    Thanks for those other references. Fascinating stuff.

    What I actually found interesting about this study was not whether the team had been able to measure creativity (they didn’t claim to do this, they just used tasks that others had said required creativity – which is a quite different thing and much less controversial). What piqued my interest was that the study revealed something about the way different brains work differently when applied to the same task.

    I agree that trying to measure or pin down creativity in some ways contradicts the essence of creativity itself.


  4. Will says:

    “What piqued my interest was that the study revealed something about the way different brains work differently when applied to the same task.”

    That is interesting.

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