The Relationship Between Intelligence and Creativity


Creativity is a significant factor in today’s global world as it drives many social, psychological, and economic activities. Through creativity, people can communicate globally, realize their passions and identities create employment and solve medical issues. The rapid development of civilization and economic growth results from creative ideas and talents worldwide, leading to a connected and informed society globally. Thus, it is essential to understand factors that promote creative works to grasp better how to solve future problems and innovate the existing ideas to their full potential. Psychological scholars have tried to link up factors that influence creativity, and the most sought relationship is the link between an individual’s intelligence and level of creativity.

The link between creativity and intelligence has various arguments with interesting discoveries. Paul Guilford suggested the first correlations between intelligence and creativity, stating that people with higher Intelligence Quotients (IQ) are more creative than those with average and low IQs (Goldstein et al., 2015). Over the years, Guilford’s theory has formed a foundation for further scientific explorations, bringing more insight into phenomena. Some of the discoveries concur with Guilford’s, while some contradict and create different hypotheses on the link between IQ and creativity. This essay explores various arguments that explain the correlation between intelligence creativity by drawing evidence from related studies.

Definition of Terms

Many scholars define intelligence in different ways, which relate to an individual’s reasoning, problem-solving skills, mental capability, and ability to make sound decisions. The most common definition refers to intelligence as an individual’s ability to possess and utilize knowledge to meet the demands of a situation (Silvia, 2015). Creativity is an individual’s ability to process new ideas or techniques through critical thinking and imagination (Goldstein et al., 2015). Creative works possess originality from existing ideas thus need intellectual prowess to develop and carry out a project. Sorjonen et al. (2019) split the concept of creativity into two sub-categories: creative achievement and creative potential to understand better the link between creativity and IQ. The researchers state that creative potential is the ability to design and create noteworthy projects by generating new ideas and incorporating existing knowledge. On the other hand, creative achievement refers to the physical manifestation of creative potential realized, such as scientific discoveries and mega technologies (Goldstein et al., 2015). Therefore, creativity entails making independent and divergent decisions, openness to learning, and acting on one’s creative potential to realize the creative achievement.

Necessary Condition Hypothesis

Intelligence is necessary for developing ideas and projects, but it is insufficient to determine creativity. Creativity comes from continuous analysis of ideas to develop solutions or technological advancements (Mulet et al., 2017). For instance, an intelligent person may know but fail to create a practical idea due to other factors that influence creativity, such as persistence and linking other ideas to create a project. Further, (Kaufman et al., 2019) argue that creativity is dispersed across all IQ levels, and it is upon an individual to be creative or not. However, creativity is distributed, unevenly where people with higher IQs have more potential for creativity than average and low IQ individuals. Thus, some intelligent people. Shi et al. (2017) conducted a study in a West Bengal school investigating intelligence’s validity as a necessity for creativity concluded that intelligence is a significant catalyst but is insufficient for the whole creative process. The test investigated students from different genders, class performance abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds.

Findings indicated no direct link between intelligence and potential creativity and achievement among the students from different socio-economic backgrounds and genders. In addition, the creativity score against intelligence was slightly lower compared to American students of the same grade (Shi et al., 2017). This research conforms to the necessary condition hypothesis by confirming that other factors apart from intelligence influence creativity, such as economic status, cultural background, and gender (María Ángeles & José-Diego, 2021). Hence, being intelligent does not guarantee creativity, while having an average or low IQ does not mean an individual cannot achieve creativity when other factors are incorporated.

Divergent and Convergent Personalities

Different personalities also influence the link between intelligence and creativity. An individual’s creativity depends on their ability to extensive explorations and openness to experiences (Frith et al., 2021). Intelligent people tend to have convergent thinking, which helps find solutions quickly and accomplish a set goal. Divergent thinkers explore and learn through experiences that lead to creativity in finding solutions to a problem (Frith et al., 2021). According to this argument, creativity does not depend on intelligence but an individual’s openness to learning and new experiences.

Similarly, other studies have also found a correlation between creativity, passion, and intelligence. According to (Nikolaeva et al., 2018), intellectual requirements vary across different tasks, challenging individuals to adopt various forms of creativity. Investigations in elementary school children also show that children could make the same designs, drawings, and carvings regardless of their IQ levels (Yu-Fong, 2019 & Silvia, 2015). Each individual is creative, depending on their field of study or passion, giving people different creative abilities at different IQ levels. Xu et al. (2019) and Ebrahimpur et al. (2018) state that this view helps explain why people vary in thinking and creativity. It explains why some people are socially inactive, genius, average, or intelligent.

The Threshold Hypothesis

The threshold model assumes a threshold between intelligence level and creativity. The model argues that people with higher IQs above 120 are more creative than those with average and lower IQs. The theory further assumes that individuals with an IQ below the threshold show more positive relationships between intelligence and creativity, while those above are geniuses (Weiss et al., 2020). According to (Akhtar & Kartika, 2019), intelligent people are more creative than people with low IQs since they can process and store more information. Jauk et al. (2013) also conform to the threshold hypothesis where individuals with IQ greater than 80 are more intelligent than those with lower IQ. Silva & Coelho (2019) argue that intelligence researchers usually consider individuals’ ability to formulate ideas as part of their intelligence rather than a separate entity. Thus, they measure an individual’s creativity in their fluency to use stored information in verbal, conceptual, figural, and verbal speech.

Consequently, intelligent people can retrieve information much faster and solve solutions in challenging situations, unlike unintelligent individuals who have less knowledge and ideas to develop creative ideas when the circumstance demands. Recent studies investigating the threshold hypothesis among gifted and non-gifted children in a school revealed that an individual’s IQ does not determine their creative ability. The school children had different intellectual processing abilities but similar creativity potential (Runco & Albert, 1986, Pastor & David, 2017). Further research by (Warne et al., 2021 & Vartanian et al., 2018) concluded that people with a higher and average IQ are more open to ideas and critical thinking than those with low IQs. The results conform to (Shi et al., 2017) investigations which indicate that creative people are open-minded and make divergent decisions that suit the presented situation. Thus, these findings indicate that intelligence determines an individual’s potential and achievement creativity.


Theories linking intelligence to creativity include the necessary condition and threshold hypotheses. The first hypothesis argues that an individual’s IQ is necessary for creativity but insufficient. According to the hypothesis, a person may have a high IQ but fail to be creative, while people with lower IQs can be creative. The threshold hypothesis assumes a fixed intelligence threshold that determines creativity. People with an IQ of 120 and above are more creative than those with a lower IQ. The theory suggests that intelligence promotes creativity because an intelligent individual can memorize and store information where they apply it when the situation demands. Since the threshold model is an advancement of the necessary condition hypothesis, evidence from empirical study confirms that intelligence may not be the only condition necessary for creativity. Finally, personality differences also determine an individual’s creativity. Divergent thinkers tend to be creative even with low IQ levels than convergent thinkers. Still, people with higher IQ are generally more creative than average and low IQ individuals.


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PsychologyWriting. "The Relationship Between Intelligence and Creativity." September 19, 2023.