Creativity is integral to many aspects of life, from being an effective problem solver to a good artist, but the brain function underlying this important trait is not well understood. A study published in Neuroscience uses EEG (electroencephalogram) technology to explore which brain regions are active during creative thinking.
Creativity is an important aspect that arguably is related to all tasks that people do. It is a significant factor in both survival and success for human beings. There are different types of creativity, including “Big C” creativity, high-order creative cognitive processes associated with artistic masterpieces or scientific breakthroughs, and every day (or Little C) creativity. Previous research has predominantly focused on the first two of these concepts.
Little C creativity is less about genius and more about the basic level of creativity needed for human survival. Previous neurocognitive studies have focused on other types of creativity, and this study aims to expand the body of literature by adding understanding of neurocognitive mechanisms that underlie everyday creativity.
For their study, Lei Fu and colleagues utilized 75 Chinese college students to serve as their sample. Forty-five of these participants were female and the mean age was 19.55 years old. Participants were all right-handed and had no psychiatric or neurological disorders. Participants completed a measure of everyday creativity that involved them ranking how often they have engaged in activities involving visual art, literature, performing arts, and crafts.
Participants completed the alternate uses task, a verbal creativity thinking task that asked them to identify unusual uses for an object presented to them. During this process, the researchers monitored their brain activity using EEG.
Results showed that during the everyday creativity task, EEG showed increased alpha power in the frontal cortex of the right hemisphere and an increase in functional connectivity between frontal, parietal, and temporal sites. Participants with higher levels of everyday creativity showed higher levels of alpha power and increased changes in coherence compared to those with lower levels of everyday creativity.
“We found that EEG alpha activity was affected by individual differences in everyday creativity when participants were generating creative ideas. Specifically, individuals with higher everyday creativity exhibited comparatively greater increases task-related power in the frontal cortex and coherence in frontal-temporal regions of the right hemisphere compared to individuals with less everyday creativity,” the researchers wrote.
This may suggest that participants who scored higher in everyday creativity also show increased ability to focus and process internal information, as well as more effective semantic processing.
This study took important steps toward bridging a gap in literature regarding the neural processes of everyday creativity. Despite this, there are limitations to note. One such limitation is that an EEG cannot show a full picture of brain activity; future research could combine with an fMRI for a more complete understanding.
Additionally, this study utilized only Chinese college students, which limits generalizability. Future research should include a larger age range, as well as a more diverse ethnic and racial population.
“The current study elucidated the effect of everyday creativity on the process of idea generation. However, a complex, bidirectional relationship may exist between everyday creativity and creative thinking as both potential causes and consequences of development,” the researchers noted. “In future research, experience sampling and diary methods might be used to track individuals’ creativity activities over a typical period of several days and weeks to explore the relationship between everyday creativity and creative thinking.”
The study, “Everyday Creativity is Associated with Increased Frontal Electroencephalography Alpha Activity During Creative Ideation“, was authored by Lei Fu, Jia Zhao, Jiangzhou Sun, Yuchi Yan, Mujie Ma, Qunlin Chen, Jiang Qiu, and Wenjing Yang.