Flexibility of thought in high creative individuals represented by percolation analysis

Yoed N. Kenett, Orr Levy, Dror Y. Kenett, H. Eugene Stanley, Miriam Faust, Shlomo Havlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Scopus citations

Abstract

Flexibility of thought is theorized to play a critical role in the ability of high creative individuals to generate novel and innovative ideas. However, this has been examined only through indirect behavioral measures. Here we use network percolation analysis (removal of links in a network whose strength is below an increasing threshold) to computationally examine the robustness of the semantic memory networks of low and high creative individuals. Robustness of a network indicates its flexibility and thus can be used to quantify flexibility of thought as related to creativity. This is based on the assumption that the higher the robustness of the semantic network, the higher its flexibility. Our analysis reveals that the semantic network of high creative individuals is more robust to network percolation compared with the network of low creative individuals and that this higher robustness is related to differences in the structure of the networks. Specifically, we find that this higher robustness is related to stronger links connecting between different components of similar semantic words in the network, which may also help to facilitate spread of activation over their network. Thus, we directly and quantitatively examine the relation between flexibility of thought and creative ability. Our findings support the associative theory of creativity, which posits that high creative ability is related to a flexible structure of semantic memory. Finally, this approach may have further implications, by enabling a quantitative examination of flexibility of thought, in both healthy and clinical populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)867-872
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume115
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 30 Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Eshel Ben-Jacob for many discussions that inspired this work. We thank Alex Arenas for his suggestions and comments on a previous version of our manuscript. This work was supported by the Binational Science Fund Grant 2013106 (to M.F. and H.E.S.). S.H. thanks the Israel–Italian collaborative project Network Cyber Security, Israel Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research, and Japan Science Foundation for financial support. The Boston University Center for Polymer Studies is supported by NSF Grants PHY-1505000, CMMI-1125290, and CHE-1213217; by Defense Threat Reduction Agency Grant HDTRA1-14-1-0017; and by Department of Energy Contract DE-AC07-05Id14517.

Funding Information:
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. We thank Eshel Ben-Jacob for many discussions that inspired this work. We thank Alex Arenas for his suggestions and comments on a previous version of our manuscript. This work was supported by the Binational Science Fund Grant 2013106 (to M.F. and H.E.S.). S.H. thanks the Israel–Italian collaborative project Network Cyber Security, Israel Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research, and Japan Science Foundation for financial support. The Boston University Center for Polymer Studies is supported by NSF Grants PHY-1505000, CMMI-1125290, and CHE-1213217; by Defense Threat Reduction Agency Grant HDTRA1-14-1-0017; and by Department of Energy Contract DE-AC07-05Id14517.

Keywords

  • Creativity
  • Network science
  • Percolation theory
  • Thought flexibility

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