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Creativity Research Journal
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The Genetic Basis of Creativity and Ideational Fluency
a

b

c

a

d

Mark A. Runco , Ernest P. Noble , Roni Reiter-Palmon , Selcuk Acar , Terry Ritchie &
Justin M. Yurkovich

c

a

University of Georgia , Athens

b

Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, UCLA

c

University of Nebraska at Omaha

d

Neuropsychiatric Institute, UCLA
Published online: 09 Nov 2011.

To cite this article: Mark A. Runco , Ernest P. Noble , Roni Reiter-Palmon , Selcuk Acar , Terry Ritchie & Justin M.
Yurkovich (2011) The Genetic Basis of Creativity and Ideational Fluency, Creativity Research Journal, 23:4, 376-380, DOI:
10.1080/10400419.2011.621859
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10400419.2011.621859

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edu could only be inferred from patterns of correlations among monozygotic versus dizygotic twins (Barron. before and after controlling general intelligence. the genetic basis of creativity remains uncertain. This was apparent in both verbal and figural fluency ideation scores. but that fluency. 376–380. largely as a result of advanced technologies. alone. Fortunately. Runco University of Georgia.CREATIVITY RESEARCH JOURNAL. UCLA Justin M. at present. and Tryptophane Hydroxylase (TPH1). UCLA Roni Reiter-Palmon Downloaded by [188. Domino.150] at 09:49 05 April 2014 University of Nebraska at Omaha Selcuk Acar University of Georgia. A much more accurate picture of the biological bases of creativity is emerging. Roth. Noble Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. D2 Dopamine Receptor (DRD2). or from differences in the correlations between children and their biological or foster parents. Athens Ernest P.105. Athens. LLC ISSN: 1040-0419 print=1532-6934 online DOI: 10. Participants were 147 college students who received a battery of tests of creative potential.2011. in press-b).e. Now genes themselves can be examined. DRD4. Dopamine Receptor D4 (DRD4). 1973. is not sufficient to predict or guarantee creative performance. Athens Terry Ritchie Neuropsychiatric Institute. Correspondence should be sent to Mark A.. alone. 23(4). Catechol-O-Methyltransferase (COMT). For years the genetic basis of creativity Jonathan Plucker served as Action Editor for this article. Runco. Yurkovich University of Nebraska at Omaha Reuter. COMT. the conclusion offered here is that there is a clear genetic basis for ideational fluency. Torrance Creativity Center. great headway in this direction is being made.25. in contrast to earlier research. & Hennig (2006) described what they called the first candidate gene for creativity. & Honeyman. E-mail: runco@uga.621859 The Genetic Basis of Creativity and Ideational Fluency Mark A. originality) had a negligible relationship with the genes under investigation. 323 Aderhold Hall. GA 30602. Holve. Multivariate analyses of variance indicated that ideational fluency scores were significantly associated with several genes (DAT. Hence. Yet fluency. Reznikoff. Creativity will only be well understood when its genetic basis is identified. This study replicated and extended their work for a more careful analysis of five candidate genes: Dopamine Transporter (DAT). Bridges. Hence. 2011 Copyright # Taylor & Francis Group. Runco. 1972. University of Georgia Athens. and the index that is by far the most important part of creativity (i. is not an adequate measure of creativity. .1080/10400419. and TPH1).

as in previous investigations on these same genes. Originality can be defined in terms of the uniqueness or unusualness of ideas (Torrance.Downloaded by [188. All creative things must be original. and that is in direct contrast to divergent thinking. Flexibility scores. When participants arrived in the lab.. One of the six subtests used by Reuter et al. Reuter et al. did describe their work as a pilot study. Participants were recruited through announcements in classrooms and received extra credit for participation. 1966). 1993).’s (2002) findings about dopamine. these findings were merely a first step. originality. COMT (Hoda et al. METHOD Participants and Procedure The sample consisted of 147 students from a Midwestern university (98 women and 49 men).. The latter is required whenever solutions are found by generating conventional or single correct ideas. this research also extended earlier efforts by expanding the number of genes from 3 to 5: Dopamine Transporter (DAT). Thus for the DRD2 it was A1þ vs. Runco. for DAT it was 9Rþ vs. for TPH1 it was Aþ vs. 1968. Runco. The calculation of separate fluency. A1-. The methods used to isolate each are described in the following.9% saline solution. 7R-. 1968. along with the other five subtests used by Reuter et al. Catechol-O-Methyltransferase (COMT). 1968. 1993). (2006) described what they called the first candidate gene for creativity. The buccal cells were suspended in a 0. which is assessed with open-ended problems and seems to play a role in many creative performances (Guilford. These are indicated by the citations for each polymorphism: . . written informed consent was obtained. First. Torrance. making it somewhat difficult to interpret the meaning of their findings. The mean age was 21. Flexibility represents the variety of ideas given and is also often associated with creative problem solving (Guilford. This is one reason why fluency is sometimes unrelated to creativity.8).. It can be quite meaningful. In fact. Zhang. 1988). for COMT it was Vþ vs.25. A-. 1991). 2009. and those other five subtests have dubious connection to creativity. 1968. All participants were White (self-reported). the earlier results were limited in several ways. . Indeed. This served to confound convergent and divergent thinking and blur any specific relationship with creative potential. They are much too convergent and preclude the original thinking that is vital for true creativity (Cropley & Cropley. The genes under investigation were analyzed as dichotomous variables. A more homogeneous measure of creative potential was used. 1991. used an uncommon measure of creativity. and Tryptophane Hydroxylase (TPH1). Runco. They must also be fitting somehow. Guilford. . aesthetically or functionally. 1995) but the scores from this subtest were merely added into a composite. & Civelli. that step may have been slightly askew. 1995). in addition to originality and flexibility.150] at 09:49 05 April 2014 GENETIC BASIS OF CREATIVITY AND IDEATIONAL FLUENCY Reuter et al. Clearly.6 (SD ¼ 3. and TPH1 (Reuter et al. originality is the key to creativity. Torrance. Participants signed up for group sessions. Reuter et al. 1991). After complete description of the study to the subjects. In addition to employing common procedures for the assessment of creative potential. Polymorphisms of the 5 genes were determined using method described in earlier research. . after centrifugation. These were chosen primarily because of Reuter et al. but it is not nearly as closely tied to creativity as is originality. The present investigation used well-recognized tests of creative potential and scored them for originality (to allow a clear interpretation about creativity) as well as fluency (to replicate the earlier findings). they first completed the paper-and-pencil measures. Buccal (cheek) cells for DNA analysis were then taken. A person can be extremely fluent but only generate 377 common and unoriginal (or useless) ideas and solutions. but they must be original or they are not creative. This is all common practice when estimating the potential for creative problem solving (Guilford. also commonly used in studies of creative potential. DNA was isolated from the deposited cells using standard procedures. They pointed to DRD2 because of its association with various measures designed to estimate creative potential. Runco.105. (2006) was described as if it would provide similar results to the very commonly used Alternative Uses test of divergent thinking (DT. thereby minimizing the possibility of any possible confound with general intelligence or mathematical talent.. Fluency only represents productivity. 2006). 1995). added all six of their subtest scores into one composite. were calculated from the divergent thinking tests. Their measure was reliable (. They were sent to UCLA where. DAT1 (Vanderbergh et al. as well as explicit hypotheses from Eysenck (1997) about the bases of creativity. 1992). 9R-. DRD2 (Grandy. D2 Dopamine Receptor (DRD2).. and flexibility scores is of critical importance. V-. DRD4 (Lichter et al. for DRD4 it was 7Rþ vs. The risk alleles were as follows: for the . It is unfortunate that Reuter et al.85) but the description of it implies a connection with mathematical talent and convergent thinking. Dopamine Receptor D4 (DRD4).

Realistic creative problem solving. Quality was defined as the degree to which the solution is useful. and . 1991. and not structured by the problem. and complexity. The responses for each DT item. Participants were asked to ‘‘List as many things as you can that are square. RESULTS A MANOVA was conducted using DAT. Analyses All five genes were in Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium and in linkage equilibrium. real-life problem situation (Reiter-Palmon.. originality.5%) MET MET 33 (28.1%) A1 23.150] at 09:49 05 April 2014 Measures DT. a paper-and-pencil. Creative problem solving was evaluated by providing participants with an open-ended.4%) A 22. for DAT it was the 9Rþ allele.7% DRD2 it was the A1þ allele.81 for quality.6%) 7R 13. All DT items have demonstrated good reliability in various studies (e. and test–retest reliabilities range from . Kobe. Buboltz. for DRD4 it was the 7Rþ allele. General mental ability was measured using the Wonderlic.0%) VAL 42. the presence of the A1 homozytote (A1=A1) and A1 heterozygote (A1=A2) or A1þ was considered a genetic risk marker for hypodopaminergic functioning compared to the A2 homozygote (A2A2) or A1.7%) AC 70 (51.6%) A1A2 54 (44. For the COMT.’’ A second set of three DT items were figural.’’ ‘‘List as many things as you can that move on wheels.6%) 9R 29. DRD2. COMT.) The table is formatted to allow easy comparisons with the earlier genetic studies. 1965).’’ and ‘‘List as many things as you can that make noise.2% Dopamine Transporter 9R Non9R 9R9R 11 (8. Ritchie. Originality was defined as the degree to which the solution is novel. Interrater reliability was . items were first assigned into broader categories. Downloaded by [188. (See Table 1. verbal and figural.82 to . The originality of each idea was evaluated using the number of individuals who listed the idea relative to the total sample. the presence of the Val homozygote (Val= Val) and Val heterozygote (Val=Met) or Valþ was considered a genetic risk marker for hypodopaminergic functioning compared to the Met homozygote (Met= Met) or Val-. & Noble. Dopamine Transporter. First. For the Dopamine Transporter.5% of the problem. using the consensual assessment technique (Amabile. Complexity was defined as the number of different ideas or components expressed in the solutions. In the context of DT tests. It includes 50 items measuring both verbal and quantitative ability. The figural DT items showed participants a line drawing and asked participants to name all the things it can be. Only ideas that were given by less the 5% of the sample were scored as original. Participants were then asked to provide a solution to this problem. Finally. flexibility was indicated by ideas that were not strongly related to one another and therefore suggest different conceptual categories. Illies.79 for originality.3% Non9R 70. cited earlier. & Nimps. 12-minute timed test (Wonderlic. The genes under investigation were analyzed as dichotomous variables as in a previous study (Conner. .378 RUNCO ET AL.5% C 77. DRD4. appropriate. DRD4.6%) VAL MET 69 (58. In order to evaluate flexibility.g. for COMT it was the Vþ allele.7% AA 5 (3. Hellemann.8% MET 57. 2009). and for TPNH1 it was the Aþ allele.3%) A2A2 66 (54. unique. Wallach & Kogan. the number of different ideas listed was counted as used a measure of fluency.3% Non7R 86.1%) Non9R Non9R 66 (49.9%) CC 60 (44. Solutions were then rated by trained raters. 2009).87 for complexity. and TPH1 as the predictors and the . and TPH1 COMT VAL MET VAL VAL 16 (13.105. TABLE 1 Genotype and Allele Frequencies of COMT.2% DRD2 A1 A2 A1A1 2 (1.7% A2 76. Runco. flexibility was defined as the ability to break mental set. were scored in several ways. Verbal DT was evaluated using three items.25. For the DRD4.9%) 7R Non7R 28 (23. The Wonderlic correlates very highly with the WAIS-R (r ¼ . Two different types of DT tests were used. the presence of the 7R homozygote (7R=7R) and 7R heterozygote (7R= Non7R) or 7Rþ was considered a genetic risk marker for hypodopaminergic functioning compared to the Non7R homozygote (Non7R=Non7R) or 7R. the presence of the 9 R homozygote (9R=9R) and 9R heterozygote (9R=Non9R) or 9Rþ was considered a genetic risk marker for hypodopaminergic functioning compared to the Non9R homozygote (Non9R=Non9 R) or 9R-.3%) 9R Non9 R 56 (42.94. DRD2. 1990) for quality. and the number of different categories used was the flexibility score. For the DRD2.5%) Non7R Non7R 84 (70. and actually solves multiple facets Wonderlic intelligence test.92). 1992). DRD4 7R Non7R TPH1 A C 7R 7R 7 (5. Creative potential was measured using DT tests.

It is quite important that the relationships with fluency were not biased by general intelligence. n2adj ¼ . Results from MANOVAs that used originality from the figural divergent thinking test scores showed significant results for DAT and DRD4. n2adj ¼ . 1991. there were significant group differences for COMT. F(1. n2adj ¼ . n2adj ¼ . 53) ¼ 3. and the sample size. p ¼ . Each of the genes was coded dichotomously (0 ¼ at risk. The effect sizes given take into account Serlin’s (1982) observation that sample statistics may overestimate the strength of relationship between dependent and independent variable.164. p < .71.083.010. and n2adj ¼ .007. In fact. TPH1. Scores from the realistic.10. In other words.25. 53) ¼ 14. F(3. (2006) that fluency is related to certain genes. Controlling Intelligence and ANOVA of Realistic Problems Importantly. n2adj ¼ . Fs(3. Here. 1985).Downloaded by [188. F(3. Runco & Albert.2.032. The same creativity criteria were related to the same genes. Intelligence was only a significant covariate in two cases (flexibility from the figural divergent thinking tests and quality scores from the realistic problems). p ¼ . n2adj ¼ .001. and DRD4. n2adj ¼ .011. p ¼ . At least as important is that the genes investigated were not related to originality or flexibility from the various DT tasks.62. MANOVAs using the flexibility score (the number of different conceptual categories used in a person’s set of ideas) from the divergent thinking tests as the criteria showed significant results only for DAT. F(1. the relationships between creativity test scores and genes were unchanged. and F(1. nor with scores on the realistic tests . n2adj ¼ . It represented the ratio of original ideas to total ideas (fluency). These tasks have a much clearer connection to creativity than the tasks in the earlier research. and complexity.70. p ¼ . and F(1. n2adj (adjusted Xi squared) ¼ .001.019.139.10. originality.072. 1980. DAT showed a marginal difference between the groups.47. as noted. p < .15. 53) ¼ 3.107. marginally significant results were obtained for COMT. 56) ¼ 4. DRD2 approached statistical significance.488 and F(3. p < . 53) ¼ 2. This method is very frequently used in studies of creativity (for a review see Runco. (Flexibility actually showed a stronger relationship with DRD4 after controlling intelligence.72. p < .060.91. open-ended problem were then analyzed.70. DISCUSSION These results support earlier findings from Reuter et al.16.105. F(1. 53) ¼ 2. 1991) and has the advantage of indicating relationships with originality when fluency has been controlled. n2adj ¼ . A second MANOVA used the fluency scores from the figural divergent thinking tests as criteria. 1 ¼ nonrisk). respectively.394. Results for the verbal divergent thinking tests uncovered significant group differences were observed for DAT. p ¼ . Ideas generated by less than 5% of the sample were identified. With that in mind. 53) ¼ 2. an ANOVA was used to determine the effects of genes on solution quality. Because originality scores can be contaminated by fluency (Hocevar. 53) ¼ 3. COMT showed these same group differences. respectively. Note also that this research found connections between fluency and several dopamine genes rather than just DRD2.017. with originality then defined as the number of these unusual ideas produced by any one participant.001. 53) ¼ 4. p ¼ . 53) ¼ 3. DRD4.53) ¼ 9. 53) ¼ 18. the effect size values (chisquared) were adjusted. respectively. No significant effects were found. MANOVAs were also conducted using intelligence (the Wonderlic) test scores as a covariate.001.171. intelligence did not contribute to the relationships found between creativity test scores and the genes examined in this research. none for the figural scores.310. a second originality index was calculated and used in additional analyses. depending on the number of levels of a grouping variable. 2 nadj ¼ .61. This kind of ratio has also been used successfully in the past (Runco. p ¼ . 53) ¼ 4. This replication is useful because a different set of tasks was used in this research.432.130 respectively. F(1. This will be explored in the Discussion section. the associations uncovered here are not merely the result of a genetic basis of general ability.) Very clearly. 379 There were no significant effects in the MANOVAs when this index of originality was used—none for the verbal scores. As only one problem was used.014.10. 54) ¼ 3. the number of dependent variables. p ¼ . but was still only p ¼ . F(3. F(1. F(1.104. This is an extremely important finding. p ¼ . Runco. Results indicated that the two DAT groups and the DRD4 groups differed significantly.076.034 n2adj ¼ .074. and F(1. n2adj ¼ . F(1.006. but even there. Originality and Flexibility The next analyses used the originality scores as the criteria. in press). p ¼ . In addition. 53) ¼ 12.140. and DRD2.53. Results confirmed the relationships reported above. n2adj ¼ . p ¼ .063.098. the relationship between divergent thinking and the genes was sharper (and remained significant) when intelligence test scores were statistically controlled.150] at 09:49 05 April 2014 GENETIC BASIS OF CREATIVITY AND IDEATIONAL FLUENCY three fluency scores from the verbal DT tasks as the criteria.

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