Sunday, February 13, 2011

How are IQ and creativity related?

Dennis Mangan is skeptical of Bruce Charlton's claim that IQ is inversely related to creativity. Dr. Charlton makes the reasonable argument that centuries of civilization selected for intelligence and docility, traits which have become the mark of a civilized man.

A 2005 meta-analysis estimated that the correlation between intelligence and creativity is .17--weak but positive.

Much of the old research did not use structural equation modeling--an advanced method that allows one to estimate g (general intelligence). Using this method, Silvia (2008) found a moderate-to-strong positive association which is reduced some when openness to experience is controlled. In other words, part of the reason why IQ and creativity tend to go together is that the trait of openness is linked to both.

Caveats: The sample was of college students--mostly women--of unidentified race (it's not unusual for race-o-phobic psychologists to treat race/ethnicity as unimportant). The results would probably be stronger if the sample were more diverse on IQ and creativity. Of course, the results do not necessarily apply to other populations.


  1. The name's Charlton (as in Heston) not Carlton...!

    The prediction of an inverse correlation referred-to between-population effects, primarily (e.g. the differences between !Kung San and Bantu and North Africans and Europeans and East Asians).

    I'm not sure how these tests of creativity are related to the assumed underlying cognitive processes which underlie actual creative achievement - most creativity tests look at things such as how many alternative uses can be suggested for an object.

    It is probably possible to 'fake' high creativity using high IQ, by means of g-loaded factors such as greater general knowledge and permutating and recombining remembered information.

    Also, doing correlations on college students is actually controlling-for things like intelligence and conscientiousness and aggression: compared with the general population the range sampled is very narrow, and this can reverse the direction of an association which can be seen in a general population sample, or when comparing populations.

    For example:

    1. In undergraduate samples from a single university, IQ and conscientiousness are inversely correlated (work of Adrian Furnham) - because educational level is controlled, and students with the same educational achievement can reach this by higher IQ with lower C (bright but lazy), higher C and lower IQ (hard working but dull) or moderate IQ and moderate C.

    2. Yet when educational level is not controlled and a wider sample of educational attainment is looked-at in a single nation there is usually no correlation between IQ and C.

    3. However, if IQ and C could be measured between nations (and there isn't yet a way of formally measuring C between cultures; at least not by self-rating personality questionnaire) - I would expect to find IQ and C strongly positively correlated (due to 'civilization' having selected-for both).

    So we (probably) have an 1. inverse correlation, 2. no correlation or 3. a positive correlation between the same two variables - according to the sample studied.


    But 'true' creativity of the type envisaged by Eysenck (from whom I draw these ideas - his book Genius was very convincing to me, in its core argument) is a spontaneous process of seeing relationships and associations in the same kind of way that that these arise in dreams - one thing reminding of another, despite non-obvious relationships.

    Eysenck noticed that creativity was associated with what he terms high Psychoticism = high creativity, low 'agreeableness/ empathy and also low C.

    Obviously, a genius needs at least moderate C to achieve anything, and this is a reason why genius is so rare - it is a rare combination.

    But agreeableness is anti-genius, becuase agreeable people don't like to rock the boat and be selfish, they are not 'arrogant' enough to believe they are right when others diagree - but they tend to be submissive, do what they are told, what is socially valued...

  2. Dr. Charlton: Fixed the spelling. I suspect that IQ is inversely related to quantitative blogging!

  3. Hey, for both of you guys: any idea what to do about the correlation of Openness with political liberalism? It's not good for right-wing nerds. ;)

  4. It depends on how you define creativity. Two useful metrics come to mind. One is the number of noble prizes won. Another is the number of patents awarded. Both of these metrics obviously correlate with IQ.

  5. I would say a third measurement of creativity would be the general rate of technological innovation that is not directly measured by the number of patents issued.

    In any case, creativity and IQ clearly correlate.

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