Education shapes the structure of semantic memory and impacts creative thinking

Solange Denervaud, Alexander P. Christensen, Yoed N. Kenett, Roger E. Beaty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Education is central to the acquisition of knowledge, such as when children learn new concepts. It is unknown, however, whether educational differences impact not only what concepts children learn, but how those concepts come to be represented in semantic memory—a system that supports higher cognitive functions, such as creative thinking. Here we leverage computational network science tools to study hidden knowledge structures of 67 Swiss schoolchildren from two distinct educational backgrounds—Montessori and traditional, matched on socioeconomic factors and nonverbal intelligence—to examine how educational experience shape semantic memory and creative thinking. We find that children experiencing Montessori education show a more flexible semantic network structure (high connectivity/short paths between concepts, less modularity) alongside higher scores on creative thinking tests. The findings indicate that education impacts how children represent concepts in semantic memory and suggest that different educational experiences can affect higher cognitive functions, including creative thinking.

Original languageEnglish
Article number35
Journalnpj Science of Learning
Issue number1
StatePublished - 9 Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

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© 2021, The Author(s).


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