When you are talking about intelligence e executive functions, often the professionals who deal with neuropsychology (and also the researchers) ask themselves what the dividing line is between these two theoretical constructs. This gets even more complicated when it comes to creativeness, given the difficulty that even the mere definition of it implies. We had previously discussed creativity in the past, mainly talking about his relationship with the cognitive reserve and telling of a experimental training to improve it.

In 2018, an Argentine group of scholars published a scientific article[1] investigating precisely the link between intelligence, executive functions e creativeness. Specifically, their interest was to understand how, in children and adolescents, creativity could be explained through the intellectual level and through the executive functions.

The study authors subjected a group of 209 people (aged 8 to 13 years) to a series of tests:

  • Two tests for evaluate creativity, both verbal and figurative (Figural Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking e Creative Intelligence)
  • A test to evaluate thefluid intelligence (Matrices of the K-BIT)
  • A test to evaluate thecrystallized intelligence (Vocabulary of the K-BIT)
  • Two tests to evaluate the working memory (Memory of Figures e Reordering of Letters and Numbers of the WISC-IV)
  • A test to evaluate the capacity of inhibit interference and automatic responses (Stroop Test)
  • Four tests to evaluate the cognitive flexibility (Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, Semantic Fluence, Phonological fluency, Five-Point test).


  • A first result emerged concerns the correlation between intelligence, executive functions and creativity: All the tests used correlated significantly with the scores in the creative tests
  • Compared to intelligence, the crystallized one seemed linked to creativity more than the fluid one, reaching up to a 14% of variance explained
  • As regards the relationship between executive functions and creativity, this appears to be the strongest link, in particular with theinhibition and cognitive flexibility. These two aspects of executive functions are the only ones capable of predicting performance in creativity tests; this appears particularly true for cognitive flexibility. Together they explained up to 29% of the variance in creativity tests
  • Finally, cognitive flexibility mediated the relationship between crystallized intelligence and creativity.


We must not jump to hasty conclusions because research deserves to be expanded in several respects. First of all, it concerns a specific age group (8 - 13 years) and it would be appropriate to study the relationship between the tests mentioned above also in other life stages (younger children, adults and the elderly).

In addition, it would be appropriate to measure creativity in a more extensive way (with other tests).

Nonetheless, these data suggest that creativity has to do with intelligence and executive functions. In particular, crystallized intelligence would have to do with creativity and their relationship would be mediated by a particular aspect of executive functions: the cognitive flexibility. The latter appears to be the main predictor of the presence of creativity in an individual, much more than intelligence.

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Dr. Ivano Anemone
He deals with neuropsychology in developmental, adult and senile age. He currently collaborates in several projects concerning the cognitive aspects in some neurodegenerative diseases.

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