Unity and diversity of executive functions in creativity

Darya L. Zabelina, Naomi P. Friedman, Jessica Andrews-Hanna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Increasing evidence suggests that executive functions (EFs) – a set of general-purpose control processes that regulate thoughts and behaviors – are relevant for creativity. However, EF is not a unitary process, and it remains unclear which specific EFs are involved. The present study examined the association between the three EFs, both uniquely (EF-Specific) and together (Common EF), and three measures of creativity. Participants (N = 47) completed a divergent thinking test, and self-reported their real-life creative accomplishments. A subset of participants indicated their involvement in the artistic or information technology (IT) professions. Results indicated that fluency (but not originality) of divergent thinking was uniquely predicted by working memory Updating. Better response Inhibition predicted higher number of real-world artistic creative achievements. Involvement in the artistic (versus IT) professions was associated with better Common EF, and with enhanced mental set Shifting abilities. Results demonstrate that different EFs predict creativity depending on its operational definition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-56
Number of pages10
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
StatePublished - Feb 2019


  • Creativity
  • Divergent thinking
  • Executive control
  • Intelligence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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