Structure and flexibility: Investigating the relation between the structure of the mental lexicon, fluid intelligence, and creative achievement

Yoed N. Kenett, Roger E. Beaty, Paul J. Silvia, David Anaki, Miriam Faust

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Creativity is mainly viewed by current theories as either a bottom-up or top-down cognitive process. However, a growing body of research indicates that both processes contribute to creative ability. Furthermore, in both accounts the structure of the mental lexicon plays a key component, either as directly related to creative ability (bottom-up) or as the basis upon which top-down processes operate (top-down). Thus, the examination of the mental lexicon structure as related to both types of processes can shed further light on the nature of creative ability. In this study, we use network science methodology to examine how fluid intelligence and creative achievement are related to the structure of the mental lexicon. A large sample of participants completed a semantic verbal fluency task and was divided into 4 groups, based on their performance on intelligence and creative achievement measures. A network science methodology was then used to extract and compare the lexical network structure of the semantic category between the 4 groups. The results of this analysis revealed that while fluid intelligence was more related to structural properties of the lexical network, creative achievement was more related to flexible properties of the lexical network. Furthermore, we found that the lexical network of the high-fluid-intelligence and high-creative-achievement group exhibited a combination of both effects. These findings provide insight into structural and functional properties of semantic networks, and they demonstrate the utility of network science in examining high-level cognitive phenomena, such as creativity and intelligence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-388
Number of pages12
JournalPsychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The majority of this work took place while Yoed N. Kenett conducted his PhD studies in Bar-Ilan University under the supervision of David Anaki and Miriam Faust. This work was partially supported by the Bina-tional Science Fund (BSF) grant (2013106) to Miriam Faust and by the I-CORE Program of the Planning and Budgeting Committee and the Israel Science Foundation (Grant 51/11). Roger E. Beaty was supported by grant RFP-15-12 from the Imagination Institute, funded by the John Templeton Foundation. We thank Ayal Klein for his help in analyzing the data.

Publisher Copyright:
© American Psychological Association.


  • Creativity
  • Executive functions
  • Mental lexicon
  • Network science


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