Journal article

Naming unrelated words predicts creativity

Jay A Olson, Johnny Nahas, Denis Chmoulevitch, Simon J Cropper, Margaret E Webb

PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA | NATL ACAD SCIENCES | Published : 2021

Abstract

Several theories posit that creative people are able to generate more divergent ideas. If this is correct, simply naming unrelated words and then measuring the semantic distance between them could serve as an objective measure of divergent thinking. To test this hypothesis, we asked 8,914 participants to name 10 words that are as different from each other as possible. A computational algorithm then estimated the average semantic distance between the words; related words (e.g., cat and dog) have shorter distances than unrelated ones (e.g., cat and thimble). We predicted that people producing greater semantic distances would also score higher on traditional creativity measures. In Study 1, we ..

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Grants

Awarded by Canada First Research Excellence Fund


Funding Acknowledgements

We thank Elias Stengel-Eskin for help with the conceptualization of the task, as well as Victoria De Braga, ' Elissa Colucci, Mari `eve Cyr, Ellen Langer, Daniel Little, and Claire Suisman for discussion and feedback. We are grateful for the assistance with data collection for Study 2 from Kylie Andrews, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and the National Science Week Committee. J.A.O. acknowledges funding from le Fonds de recherche du Que ' bec-Sante '. Study 1C was part of a larger project supported by Canada First Research Excellence Fund Grant 3c-KM10 awarded to the Healthy Brains for Healthy Lives initiative at McGill University (Principal Investigator: Samuel Veissi`ere).