The Creativity Quiz: True or False?

1. What is the link between creativity and intelligence?

The Oxford Dictionary describes intelligence as intellect, understanding and if you are intelligent, you show a ‘quickness of understanding’. Is this really all there is to it? What are the views of people in general? Here are some to think about:

Intelligence is:

  • Knowing a lot about a lot
  • Being able to communicate effectively
  • Having leadership abilities
  • Being street smart
  • Being well rounded and excelling in many areas
  • Very good at solving problems
  • Learning very quickly and seemingly without effort
  • Being highly productive and efficient
  • Having a lot of common sense
  • Being inventive
  • Being highly adaptive

For many years it was accepted that there was a single, general intelligence which is reflected by our IQ (intelligence quotient). This score is determined by a few short questions which test how clever we are and, even more depressing, we are assured that it is nearly impossible to improve on our IQ score! One thing that was certainly never mentioned in the same breath as intelligence, was creativity. Creativity was really the stepsister that had more to do with painting a nice picture and making cute little cushion covers.

Discovering Intelligence(s!)

Howard Gardner, author of Frames of Mind (1998), broke the good news to the world that the belief of decades that there is only one intelligence, is false. What he proposed was that there exists a number of different human intelligences – as many as eight, in fact. He is working on adding a ninth. These intelligences are: linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, spatial, bodily-kinaesthetic, intrapersonal, interpersonal, naturalist and the ninth, existential.

These different intelligences reveal that what is intelligent for a designer is not intelligent for a composer or for an attorney. So, who is the most intelligent? Not a very intelligent question, because it would be like asking; ‘So who is the most intelligent: Edison, Michelangelo, Einstein or Walt Disney?’ Your answer would probably depend on whether you are an inventor, an artist, a scientist or a movie buff. What would be the intelligent answer? They are all intelligent but possess different types of intelligences. Are they creative, though? But of course – they all had to be creative too to have enriched the world as they have.

Intelligence and creativity are two very intricate functions that are very closely associated with each other. What was the stereotype:

  • Scientists are logical and reasoning (clever!), but certainly not creative
  • Artists are imaginative (creative), but often not logical or rational (or necessarily clever)

Looking at the different intelligences, you have to see how they interconnect. What is the truth that has been revealed?

  • Scientists are often very imaginative and intuitive. What did the greatest scientist of all have to say? ‘When I examine myself and my methods of thought I come to the conclusion that the use of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing knowledge.’ He also said, ‘Imagination is greater than knowledge.’ Guessed it? It was Einstein himself.
  • Artists need more than their imagination, fantasies, and inspiration to create. They also need to be rational, often precise and self-criticizing.

Remember what Thomas Edison had to say?

‘Genius is ninety percent perspiration and one percent inspiration.’

The question is therefore not ‘Am I intelligent or not?’; the question is ‘What intelligences and creative skills can I combine in my career, studies, everyday life?’

2. Do my intelligence and creativity have anything to do with the size of my brain?

Somebody once wrote we only have a body so that we can carry our brains around! Well, that could be an over-statement. But there is no getting away from the fact that the brain is the BOSS, the controlling power, the center of not only our thinking but our feelings, our spirituality, our creativity. To know more about the brain is therefore not a bad idea.

The short answer to the question is NO. How big is the brain? The actual size varies from person to person (males normally have bigger brains than females), but the physical size has nothing to do with ‘clever/creative or not’. People often talk about the brain as a built-in computer. The truth is, find the most advanced computer, compare it to the brain and it will most certainly come off second best. Your brain only weighs about 1.5kg but contains around 100 billion cells called neurons. Neurons cannot divide and are not replaced when they die (about 10% do just that), but don’t fret. Your brain won’t shrivel up till there’s nothing left, because even when the cells decrease, we can still manage to grow our brain. This is how it works:

  • So, you have 100 billion neurons (brain cells).
  • Each of these neurons has branches called dendrites which can make up to 25 000 connections
  • The possible number of meeting points between cells (these connections are called synapses) total about 10 trillion (10 000 000 000 000)! Ever seen so many zeros together? This is more than the known stars in the universe.
  • In other words, by making “brain connections” we all have the potential to expand our brains, to become more clever and more creative in many fields and to master many skills.

3. Is it true that we have two brains?

Well, that really depends on whom you ask. Dr. Paul McLean was the man who said we actually have three brains. He called this his Triune Brain model. He believes that each layer has built up over time as our human needs have grown and required more advanced thinking. This is how he divides the brain:

  • The oldest brain layer is called the reptilian brain, which controls our sensory-motor functions such as hunger, heart rate, and breathing, it is also our survival brain used for fight or flight. It includes the brain stem and sits at the center of the brain. When this brain takes over, things could get tricky. The ‘brain’ takes the back seat and the body takes over.
  • The second layer is the limbic brain, which controls biorhythms, sleep patterns, blood pressure, and temperature and regulates the immune and hormonal systems. It is the home of emotions and sexuality. Many of our irrational feelings are born here. Yes, this is where all that paranoia, fear, anger, jealousy or feelings of revenge come from. Ever felt paralyzed by some emotion, unable to move, unable to carry on with life normally? Now you know which brain to blame for that.
  • The most modern brain layer is Cortex or Neo-cortex, which represents 80% of the brain. This is our thinking brain where we reason; it is the center of language, visualization, and intuition. It is where we formulate, calculate, make decisions and organize. It is also the center of creativity. Therefore, the ‘clever’ brain and the ‘creative’ brain seem to be one and the same.

Of course, the three layers of the brain don’t function in isolation but are constantly communicating with one another. For example, when you experience a great surge of joy for receiving a raise at work (limbic brain), but your cortex takes over and warns you that you can’t grab the boss and give him/her a big kiss! That’s where the difference between lust and love come in too. The one is limbic; the other turns into appropriate behavior in the cortex. People suffering from road rage obviously have a problem getting these two brains to work together.

The brain also shows another distinct division: the two halves or hemispheres. So, why does the brain have two halves? Many have wondered over the years. References to the dual nature of the brain are found in very early manuscripts. Hippocrates concluded, ‘The brain of man is double.’ Believe it or not, it was in 400 BC that he wrote this after making the assumption that loss of speech was connected with damage to the left side of the brain.

In 1864 a French surgeon named Paul Broca came to a similar conclusion after observing that patients with aphasia (loss of speech) had damage to the left brain.

But the real breakthrough came nearly a century later. In the 1960s, Philip Vogel and Joseph Bogen (and others) performed their breakthrough split-brain surgery on a few epileptic patients. They cut through the corpus callosum (a layer of nerves) between the hemispheres to help curb the massive seizures. Roger Sperry (who received a Nobel Prize for this work in 1981 with his colleagues Bogen, Vogel, and Gazzaniga started the most amazing research on the brain ever done. Tests on these patients revealed that the two hemispheres control vastly different aspects of thought and action. They found the left (controlling the right side of the body) is dominant for language and speech and for analytical and logical thought, while the right (controlling the left side of the body) excels at visualizing, holistic and unstructured tasks.

Their breakthrough also proved that the corpus callosum, the connecting channel between the left and the right brain, is responsible for the essential communication between the two hemispheres of the brain. For the first time, it was official: the two sides were different, processed information differently and controlled different sides of the body. The picture they came up with, looked something like this:

Another question remained, though: do people have brain preferences? Do we favor either the left or right brain in our thinking and doing? This started off many decades of research by people such as Ned Herrman, Jacqueline Wonder, Priscilla Donovan, Beverly Moore, Kobus Neethling, and others. The answer was the same, and a resounding YES. We will discuss these preferences in a later chapter in more detail, but for now, it leads to our next question:

4. Are left-brainers clever and right-brainers creative?

In a way, we have already answered part of this question. To be clever and to be creative are not necessarily two different things. As we have pointed out, scientific cleverness often needs intuition, creative insight and the ability to visualize while the artistic and innovative act needs some reasoning, logic, and analysis to come to fruition. Leonardo da Vinci is a brilliant example of ‘clever in both sides of the brain’. He was famous for his scientific theories as well as his artistic innovations.

For many decades it was believed that creativity could only spring from the right brain where we process information visually, unstructured and spatially. We now understand that creativity as


…can be associated with both sides of the brain. Designing something new in the field of technology, science, finance or administration (left brain processes) must surely be termed creative.

So, what about the idea that people who favor right brain thinking will be more creative? Certainly, to favor thinking that is less rigid, less precise, less structured could more easily lead to the flexibility needed for creativity, but that is not the whole story. Once creativity is encouraged and routine and habit broken, everybody can be creative. You may approach creativity differently, you may emphasize elaboration more than flexibility in the creativity process, you may ‘perspire’ more than ‘inspire’, but that still doesn’t mean you are not creative.

5. If we all have the potential to be creative, why are some creative and others not?

In a later blog, we will talk at length about things that block our creativity. But let’s answer this question in short here as well. As children, most of us are very creative. We live in an imaginary world, see possibilities in most things, we do not internalize our mistakes and therefore go on believing we can conquer most obstacles.  So, what happens between those splendid years and now? The results of Paul Torrance’s creativity test (the TTCT), used worldwide to test people’s creative abilities, are certainly an indictment of parents and teachers. These results have shown that

  • 98% of children from 3 to 5 years reveal a superior level of creative behavior
  • At the age of 10 years, only 32% of the children are still at this level, and
  • At the age of 15, the figure drops to 10%.
  • Of adults above the age of 25, only 2% are still superior in their creative behavior!

It is difficult to stifle the child’s spontaneous creativity; unfortunately, the opposite is true as we grow up. It seems far easier to block and stifle creativity in older children and adults than to make it flourish. Why are some people seemingly not creative? Because they

  • Are not encouraged to express their creativity (at home, at school, in the workplace)
  • Are not encouraged to follow and develop their dreams and talents if these are not academic in nature
  • Do not associate ‘work’ and ‘career’ with opportunities to be creative
  • Do not act on their ideas

Hopefully, we will answer any remaining questions in the next blogs.

To Take Along from This Chapter

  • Gardner distinguished between 8 intelligences
  • Intelligences, like creativity, can be developed
  • The question is not, ‘Am I intelligent or not?’ The question is, ‘What intelligences or creative skills can I combine in my career, studies, everyday life?’
  • We all start off with about 100 billion brain cells (neurons). To grow our brains, we need to make connections between the cells
  • Paul McLean divided the brain into three (the Triune Model): the reptilian brain, limbic brain, and cortex
  • The cortex is the center of both our abilities to reason and to be creative
  • Our brain is also divided into two hemispheres: the left processing information in a logical, analytical way and the right processing information in an unstructured and holistic way
  • Both left and right-brainers can be both clever and creative
  • To become creative, most people need encouragement

‘Einstein’s space is no closer to reality than Vaan Gogh’s sky.’

Arthur Koestler