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Acta Psychologica Sinica    2018, Vol. 50 Issue (11) : 1197-1211     DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2018.01197
Differences in cognitive inhibition between persons with high and low creativity: Evidences from behavioral and physiological studies
Xuejun BAI1(),Haijuan YAO2()
1 Academy of Psychology and Behavior, Tianjin Normal University, Tianjin 300074, China
2 Department of Psychology, School of Law, Tianjin University of Commerce, Tianjin 300134, China
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Creativity has been previously defined as a behavior or product that is both novel and appropriately useful. It is a complex concept with many different processes, indicating that some of these processes require heavy executive processing. Executive function is the basic ability of cognitive processes to control one’s thoughts and behaviors, which is related to the prefrontal cortex, and it is mainly composed of three components: mental set transformation, inhibitory control, and working memory updating. Previous studies examining the relationship between cognitive inhibition and creative thinking have obtained inconsistent results. The following three hypotheses can be formulated regarding the relationship between cognitive inhibition and creative thinking. Creative thought has been variably associated with focused attention and effective inhibition control, disinhibition, and defocused attention or a flexible adaption of inhibition control.

The aim of present study was to investigate the relationship between cognitive inhibition and creative thinking using behavioral and physiological indexes, and the effects of time pressure on the relationship between cognitive inhibition and creative thinking. In this study, undergraduate students with different divergent thinking levels were asked to perform the Stroop task. In Experiment 1, a Stroop color naming task was carried out to test participants’ cognitive inhibitory ability. In Experiment 2, a more flexible Stroop word-color naming task was adopted and the physiological data was recorded to further investigate the relationship between cognitive inhibition and creative thinking, and time pressure situation was applied concerning reaction time. When participants responded after more than 550 ms, feedback of “too late” appeared on the display.

The results found that in Experiment 1, the highly creative persons showed smaller interference effect than did less creative persons; in Experiment 2, there was a significant time pressure condition × group × stimulus congruence interaction. The interference effect between the condition of time pressure and no time pressure of the highly creative persons was smaller than that of the less creative persons. Moreover, the time pressure condition × group interaction reached significance; the less creative persons showed significantly greater increases in skin conductance responses (SCRs) under the time pressure condition than in the no time pressure condition, but there was no significant difference for SCRs between the condition of time pressure and no time pressure of the highly creative persons. Furthermore, the highly creative persons exhibited significantly greater increases in SCRs under the incongruent condition in color naming task than in the congruent condition; however, they showed no significance between the congruent and incongruent conditions in the word naming task. There was no significant difference in SCRs between the congruent and incongruent in word and color naming tasks of the less creative persons.

The above results indicated that highly creative persons showed stronger cognitive inhibitory ability than did less creative persons; they could effectively suppress dominant but irrelevant response tendencies. Moreover, time pressure played a moderate role in the relationship between cognitive inhibition and creative thinking. Highly creative persons could focus on task-related information and inhibit task-unrelated information, adjust their attention to adapt to different time pressure task situations, and inhibit the interference characteristics. The highly creative persons showed variability in autonomic arousal levels in different conditions; the less creative were essentially fixed in a state of cognitive inhibition. The results agree with the hypothesis of adaptive cognitive inhibition of creative thinking.

Keywords creative thinking      cognitive inhibition      time pressure      skin conductance responses     
ZTFLH:  B842  
Corresponding Authors: Xuejun BAI,Haijuan YAO     E-mail:;
Issue Date: 25 September 2018
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Xuejun BAI,Haijuan YAO. Differences in cognitive inhibition between persons with high and low creativity: Evidences from behavioral and physiological studies[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2018, 50(11): 1197-1211.
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创造性组别 字色一致 字色不一致
高创组 97.60(3.55) 96.98 (2.39)
低创组 98.64(2.55) 95.73(4.14)
创造性组别 字义命名 颜色命名
一致 不一致 一致 不一致
有时间压力 高创组 92.36 (7.29) 82.29 (14.56) 91.32 (6.52) 83.33 (7.95)
低创组 89.93 (6.76) 80.21 (14.56) 92.71 (7.13) 80.21 (10.22)
无时间压力 高创组 96.88 (5.06) 96.53 (3.91) 99.31 (2.41) 95.49 (5.46)
低创组 98.61 (2.71) 95.83 (4.35) 98.96 (2.59) 90.97 (7.07)
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