Cognitive abilities and creativity.
How do these cognitive abilities relate to creativity? Early research examining the relationship between general cognitive ability and creativity resulted in the threshold theory, which holds that overall cognitive ability, g, only matters until a certain point proposed to be somewhere around 120 IQ points (Guilford, 1967; Jung et al., 2009; Yamamoto, 1964). Other findings, however, do not support the threshold theory (Kim, 2005; Preckel, Holling, & Wiese, 2006).
In evaluating the threshold hypothesis, we believe that it is useful to distinguish creative cognition (which is part of the cognitive ability nexus) from creative achievement (which depends on many other factors, including the noncognitive ones reviewed next). A recent study investigated the cognitive and personality predictors of creative achievement in the arts versus the sciences (S. B. Kaufman et al.,
2015). Across four samples, comprising more than 1,000 demograph- ically diverse participants, the researchers found that g and divergent thinking were much stronger predictors of creative achievement in the sciences (inventions and scientific discovery) than the arts (visual arts, music, dance, creative writing, humor, and theater and film). In fact, there appeared to be no cognitive ability threshold for the arts: Cognitive abilities were not significantly correlated with creative achievement in the arts.
Taken together, it appears that cognitive abilities facilitate creative cognition but only up to a certain point (depending on the domain). Beyond this threshold, cognitive abilities may still have an important influence on the extent to which creative ideas are translated into actual creative achievements, perhaps by aiding in the evaluation and usefulness of the ideas, although more research is needed to further examine this hypothesis.