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Thinking Skills and Creativity 28 (2018) 167–176

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Thinking Skills and Creativity

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The role of motivation in the prediction of creative achievement

inside and outside of school environment

S. Agnolia, , M.A. Runcob, C. Kirscha, G.E. Corazzaa,c
Marconi Institute for Creativity, Italy
University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA
Department of Electrical, Electronic, and Information Engineering “Guglielmo Marconi”, University of Bologna, Italy


Keywords: The present study used a latent variable modelling approach to investigate the influence of
Creative achievement motivation on creative achievement in different environments. This was used in conjunction and
Motivation interaction with other creativity-related predictors, such as openness to new experience and
Openness response originality in a divergent thinking task. Specifically, the inside school and the outside
school environments were analyzed in a sample of university students. Results showed that the
interaction between openness and intrinsic motivation was the strongest predictor of creative
achievement. This interaction predicted both outside and inside school creative achievement,
which was further influenced by extrinsic tendencies. In particular, intrinsic motivation predicted
creative achievement only when associated with a medium or high level of openness to experi-
ence. Originality only predicted outside school creative achievement. Limitations and implica-
tions of these results are discussed.

1. Introduction

Creativity can be considered as a multifaceted construct that defies a single definition (Agnoli, Corazza, & Runco, 2016; Corazza,
2016; Sternberg, 1988). Indeed, creativity research spans several disciplines in psychology, including cognitive, differential, de-
velopmental, and social psychology (Simonton, 2012). Abundant research has been dedicated to the explanation of creative abilities,
personality attitudes, social and context variables leading to the expression of creativity. From a cognitive point of view, large interest
is dedicated to the analysis of the mental processes and mechanisms involved in creative thinking. A central role in this field is played
by the study of cognitive abilities leading to original and effective ideas, such as divergent thinking, i.e., the ability to generate many
alternative solutions to a problem. This thinking ability has been explored in cognitive science as well as in neuroscience through a
number of experimental paradigms (Agnoli, Zanon, Mastria, Avenanti, & Corazza, 2018; Fink, Benedek, Grabner, Staudt, & Neubauer,
2007; Runco, 2014) essentially because it is highly associated to the expression of the individual creative potential (Runco & Acar,
2012). Beside the study of the main cognitive constituents of creative potential, individual differences in the expression of this
potential are considered to be essential to understand creativity. Research showed that creative persons seem to have some distinctive
personality traits. Creativity is for example highly associated to the openness to experience trait (e.g., Carson, Peterson, & Higgins,
2005), which emerged to be central for the processing of apparently irrelevant environmental information leading to the best creative
performance (Agnoli, Franchin, Rubaltelli, & Corazza, 2015). At the same time, however, creative persons in different knowledge
domain are characterized by different creative profiles (Feist, 1998), showing that different personality attitudes are necessary to the

Corresponding author at: Marconi Institute for Creativity, Villa Griffone, Via dei Celestini 1, 40037 Sasso Marconi, BO, Italy.
E-mail address: (S. Agnoli).
Received 19 December 2017; Received in revised form 12 May 2018; Accepted 13 May 2018
Available online 19 May 2018
1871-1871/ © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
S. Agnoli et al. Thinking Skills and Creativity 28 (2018) 167–176

expression of creative potential in different domains, such as art and science (Corazza & Agnoli, 2018).
Building on this wide base of data, nearly unanimous consensus has been reached in the realm of education that creativity can be
taught (Amabile, 1996; Baer & Kaufman, 2006; Cropley, 1992; Kaufman & Beghetto, 2009; Runco & Chand, 1995; Wilson, 2005). In
addition to training techniques originally designed to stimulate an individual’s creative thinking ability (e.g., brainstorming or CPS;
Fryer, 1996), cognitive and social psychologists and educational researchers have generated practices and programs for fostering
creativity in school teaching (Amabile, 1996; Esquivel, 1995; Feldman & Benjamin, 2006; Lin, 2011). In particular, education of
creativity entails two main aspects. The first aspect concerns teaching, i.e., how to provide creative and innovative educational
practices which stimulates higher-level thinking, risk taking, and the opportunity to explore multiple alternative solutions (Cropley,
1992; Fryer, 1996; Lin, 2011). The second aspect concerns creating a supportive environment, which can stimulate learners’ motivation
and creative behavior (Collins & Amabile, 1999; Hennessey, 2007; Lin, 2011; Torrance, 1995). Both educational aspects integrate the
results obtained by psychological research in order to foster the main constituents and determinants of creative thinking.
We believe that new insights to the education of creativity could derive from modern integrated approaches to the study of
creative thinking. Driven by the theoretical bases provided by comprehensive models of the creative thinking process (for a review,
see Lubart, 2001), which explain the creative process through an ensemble of cognitive, personality and contextual factors, and by
modern statistical techniques, these new approaches explore the creativity phenomenon by analyzing simultaneously the individuals’
cognitive and attitudinal elements. In particular, using as reference variable the creative success achieved by people in real life, these
approaches analyze the interaction of cognitive and dispositional variables to explain, through predictive models, individual creative
achievement (Agnoli, Vannucci, Pelagatti, & Corazza, 2018; Jauk, Benedek, & Neubauer, 2014; Kirsch, Lubart, & Houssemand, 2016;
Silvia, Kaufman, & Pretz, 2009).
While several predictive models have been proposed to explain the interactive role played by cognitive abilities and personal
dispositions in the prediction of real-life creativity (i.e., creative achievement in real life), less is known on the effects of the context
on this interactive relationship. Can the role played by different personality dimensions and cognitive abilities in the prediction of
real-life creativity change according to different contexts? This is the main question addressed by the present study. Specifically,
starting from the central importance of fostering learners’ motivation in the educational context, the current work analyzed which is
the weight of motivation in the prediction of real-life creativity within and outside of the higher education context, taking into
account its interaction with personality and cognitive abilities. Understanding whether motivation plays a role in the creative success
within and outside of the school environment, over and above personality and creative abilities, can indeed provide important insight
to develop ad hoc educational approaches to foster motivational attitudes leading to creativity. While several predictive models have
been indeed proposed analyzing the interactive role played by personality traits (such as openness to experience; e.g., Jauk et al.,
2014) and cognitive abilities (such as the ability to produce original alternative responses in divergent thinking tasks; e.g., Agnoli,
Vannucci et al., 2018; Agnoli, Zanon et al., 2018; Jauk et al., 2014; Kirsch et al., 2016) in the prediction of creativity, no study has yet
explored the interactive role played by individual motivation in a comprehensive statistical model, as well as its importance in
predicting creative achievements within different contexts.

1.1. Motivation

When considering the features that lead a thinker through the creative process, a number of important elements arise. Resisting
the frustration caused by failure, the ability to reformulate ideas, considering alternatives, and tolerating uncertainty and ambiguity
are all examples of necessary elements for obtaining creative success. Arguably, the fundamental component that drives the entire
creative process is the underlying motivation. Motivation activates the cognitive and conative-attitudinal resources that allow in-
dividuals to face the challenges which are inherent to the creative process. Specifically, an extensive body of literature showed that
the main enabler of creative behaviour are personal interest and enjoyment (e.g., Forgeard & Mecklenburg, 2013). Recent research
showed that individual motivation both directly activates the creative process and is indirectly influenced by the successful or
unsuccessful attainments in the course of the process (Agnoli, Franchin, Rubaltelli, & Corazza, 2018). The central role of motivation
for creativity has been recognized by various theoretical models. Amabile (1983) highlighted the special importance of task moti-
vation for creativity, besides creativity-relevant skills and domain-relevant skills. The investment theory of creativity (Sternberg &
Lubart, 1992; Sternberg & Lubart, 1996) includes task motivation in the six necessary resources for creativity to occur. The DIMAI
model of the creative thinking process, recently introduced by Corazza and Agnoli (2015), considers motivation as the essential spark
for the creative process.
The creativity literature distinguishes between two major forms of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. While intrinsic
motivation “arises from the intrinsic value of the work for the individual” (Amabile, 1993, p. 185), extrinsic motivation “arises from
the desire to obtain outcomes that are apart from the work itself” (Amabile, 1993, p. 185). According to Collins and Amabile (1999),
most creativity theories agree on the importance of intrinsic motivation, which was also supported by a large number of empirical
findings (Torrance, 1983; Barron, 1963; Gruber & Davis, 1988; Gruber, 1986; Heinzen, Mills, & Cameron, 1993; MacKinnon, 1962;
Torrance, 1981, 1987). Intrinsic motivation is closely related to the notion of flow from Csikszentmihalyi (1990), which arises if the
task difficulty optimally matches the level of performance of the individual (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996, 1988). The relation between
extrinsic motivation and creativity is more ambiguous. As described by Collins and Amabile (1999), extrinsic motivation was initially
thought to undermine creativity and extensive research was devoted to this presumably negative effect of extrinsic motivation on
creativity. This research reflected the social-psychological perspective, according to which intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are
mutually exclusive (Calder & Staw, 1975; Deci, 1971; Lepper, Greene, & Nisbett, 1973). In recent times however, the definition of
extrinsic motivation (Amabile, 1993; Deci & Ryan, 1985; Ryan & Deci, 2000) and the conceptualization of the relation between

S. Agnoli et al. Thinking Skills and Creativity 28 (2018) 167–176

extrinsic motivation and creativity (Amabile, 1993, 1996) have been refined. According to Eisenberg (2002), extrinsic motivation can
indeed favour creativity but only under specific conditions. Its impact is determined in an interactive manner by the nature of the
task, the receptor of the reward (individual or group), the personality traits of the involved individuals (individualistic or collecti-
vistic), and the level of intrinsic motivation. This theory is consistent with the model of motivational synergy from Amabile (1993,
1996). It stipulates that both types of motivation eintrinsic and extrinsic ehave the potential to combine in a synergistic way; the
higher the initial level of intrinsic motivation, the higher the probability to be motivated by specific external factors. This is known as
the Intrinsic Motivation Principle (Amabile, 1996). In some studies, an expected reward had a higher impact on creative performance
if the intrinsic motivation was already high and it even further increased the already existing intrinsic motivation (Eisenberger &
Rhoades, 2001; Eisenberger, Rhoades, & Cameron, 1999).
Motivation does not act on creativity as a separate force, but it interacts with other factors in determining the creative perfor-
mance. A recent line of research explored the interaction between motivation and personality in the definition of the creative process.
According to Prabhu, Sutton, and Sauser (2008), there has been extensive research investigating separately the relation between
creativity and personality (e.g., Feist, 1998), creativity and motivation (e.g., Amabile, 1996) and personality and motivation
(Entwistle, 1988; Ford, 1996; Gist & Mitchell, 1992), but there is little empirical evidence for how personality and motivation interact
in their influence on creativity. Starting from this, Prabhu et al. (2008) demonstrated that intrinsic motivation interacts with
openness to experience in the prediction of creativity. Hence, these interactional effects should be accounted for when analysing
creative behaviour.
A second element that emerged as central in the analysis of the influence of motivation on creativity is the environment where
creativity is required. As stated by Amabile, Conti, Coon, Lazenby, and Herron (1996), the environment plays a fundamental role in
the relation between motivation and creativity since it activates or de-activates motivational drives. The environmental constraints
directly influence the nature of motivational tendencies at play as well as the effect that motivation has on creative achievement.
However, as previously stated, the way in which motivation interacts with personality or with creative abilities within different types
of environments is still unknown.

1.2. The current study

The aim of the present study was to explore the role of motivation in the explanation of creative achievement within different
contexts, taking into account also the role of creative thinking abilities and the interaction between openness to experience and
intrinsic motivation. Specifically, the current research investigated the influence of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, openness to
experience, and creative abilities on creative achievement in two apparently opposed contexts: inside and outside of school en-
vironments, taking into account students involved in high-education curricula. This apparent contraposition is based on the belief
that inside the school environment students do not perform creative activities out of choice or personal interest; they should be
mostly driven by extrinsic motivators, such as good grades or recognition by teachers and peers. On the other hand, on the basis of
this belief, the motivation for creative activities outside the academic context should be a very different one; it should most likely
stems from intrinsic interest and pleasure provided by the activity itself. On the basis of the above, it could be hypothesized that
creative achievement outside the school environment might be mostly predicted by intrinsic motivation, whereas the inside school
creative achievement might be predicted by extrinsic motivators. However, evidence from the everyday scholastic experience as well
as research results seems to indicate that this may be a simplification. For instance, as regards the school environment and contrary to
the previous assumptions, free drawing in art class or writing without a pre-assigned topic could also activate intrinsic motivation if a
student is sufficiently open-minded. This possibility is perfectly in line with the findings on the interaction between intrinsic mo-
tivation and openness to experience in the explanation of creative behavior (Prabhu et al., 2008). Moreover, education is highly
engaged in stimulating students’ interests, increasing their involvement in scholastic activities. Whereas the role of intrinsic moti-
vation has been extensive explored in the outside-of-school activities (Hong, Milgram, & Whiston, 1993; Milgram, 1989, 1990;
Milgram & Hong, 1999), showing the highly predictive power of this form of motivation for real life achievements, the same cannot
be said for the study of the predictive role of intrinsic motivation in the inside school environment. Holland and his colleagues, for
example, in an extensive series of studies showed that intrinsically motivated creative activities outside of school during adolescence
are good predictors of adult accomplishments (Holland & Austin, 1962; Holland & Nichols, 1964; Holland, 1961; Richards, Holland,
& Lutz, 1967). However, recent results merging the role of intrinsic motivation with the openness personality trait give us a new
perspective to explore the role of intrinsic motivation on creative achievement, not only in the outside but also in the inside school
environment. We therefore hypothesized that the interaction between openness to experience and intrinsic motivation might be a
better predictor of creative achievement than intrinsic motivation alone, not only outside the school environment but also inside
school, where it could be joined with the influence of extrinsic motivation in the explanation of creative behavior. In addition, we
were interested in understanding whether creative thinking abilities could help explaining creative achievement within and outside
of school over and above the role of openness and motivation.
We used a divergent thinking task to measure the participants’ creative potential. As previously said, exploring creative potential
through a divergent thinking task gave us the opportunity to include a cognitive component in a comprehensive model predicting
creative achievement in the two environments. On the basis of recent results (Runco et al., 2016; Runco, Acar, & Cayirdag, 2017),
showing that the students’ creative potential is hardly expressed when they are at school, we hypothesized that creative potential (as
measured through the originality of the responses in the divergent task) might be a good predictor of creative achievement outside of
school but not within the school environment.
Through the use of latent variable modelling, we tested these hypotheses positing that extrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation,

S. Agnoli et al. Thinking Skills and Creativity 28 (2018) 167–176

Fig. 1. Hypothetical tested model of prediction of inside and outside school creative achievement. Openness X Intrinsic = interaction of openness to
experience with intrinsic motivation.

the interaction between intrinsic motivation and openness, and the ability to produce original responses in a divergent thinking task
were predictors of inside school and outside school creative achievement, following the structure depicted in Fig. 1. Creative
achievement was defined in the present study through artistic and everyday creative achievement. The choice of artistic creativity
stems from the fact that it is the most representative form of domain-specific creative achievement in the literature (Niu & Sternberg,
2001; Simonton, 1984; Zeki, 2001). Its investigation is meaningfully complemented by everyday creative achievement, which is a
more general form of creative expression (Runco & Richards, 1997); this can provide interesting insights on how personality, di-
vergent thinking, and motivation interact on a more domain-general achievement level.

2. Material and methods

2.1. Participants

Ninety-three students from the University of Bologna were involved in the study (38 males, 54 females, 1 non-specified, MAge =
23.81, SD = 5.74). Their enrolment was part of a larger recruitment campaign aimed at testing a newly developed test battery for the
assessment of creative behavior (Agnoli, Corazza, & Runco, 2016). In the present study participants completed only a subset of tests
included in the larger test battery. The study was carried out in accordance with APA recommendations and the procedure was
approved by the Bioethical Committee from the University of Bologna. Participants freely and voluntarily agreed to be enrolled in the
study. Moreover participants were free to withdraw from the study at any time without providing a reason.
In order to ensure that our sample size was sufficient to detect an adequate effect, we computed a post hoc Monte Carlo simulation
using MPLUS 7.4 software. Based on Muthén and Muthén (2002) criteria, results revealed that our total sample size of 93 participants
was sufficient for unbiased parameter estimates (parameter and standard error biases did not exceed 10 percent for any parameter for
which power has been assessed), unbiased standard errors (standard error bias for the parameter for which power has been assessed
did not exceed 5 percent), good coverage (coverage remained between 0.91 and 0.98), and to detect at least a medium effect in the
model (Cohen’s d > 0.50).

2.2. Instruments and procedure

2.2.1. Creative achievement

Creative achievement was measured by the Creative Activity and Accomplishment Checklist (CAAC), which is part of the Runco
Creativity Assessment Battery (rCAB). This checklist was first used by Holland (1960) and then adapted and updated by Wallach &
Wing et al. (1969); Hocevar (1980), Milgram and Hong (1999), Runco, Noble, and Luptak (1990), Paek, Park, Runco, and Choe
(2016), just to name a few who used some form of it and reported good reliability. The original version of the scale measures creative
accomplishments in many life domains (e.g., artistic, scientific, technological). The present research focused on the artistic and the
everyday creative domains, using a 28-item short version of the questionnaire. Example items for the artistic creative achievement
were: “How many times, or how often, have you painted an original picture?” “How many times, or how often, have you received an

S. Agnoli et al. Thinking Skills and Creativity 28 (2018) 167–176

award for artistic accomplishment?” Example items for the everyday creative achievement were: “How many times, or how often,
have you designed an elaborate hoax or joke one that involved co-conspirators and a detailed plan?” “How many times, or how often,
have you decorated some place for a party or special event?”
The responses were given on a four-point Likert scale measuring the frequency of creative activities: A = Never did this, B = Did
this once or twice, C = 3–5 times, and D = More than 5 times. In order to account for the context, we assessed the frequency of
creative activities both within and outside the school environment. For each item, participants had to indicate how often they
performed the respective activity specifically within and then, separately, outside the school environment, with reference to their
entire education. Participants had to check the response (A–D) that best described the frequency of the activity performed respec-
tively inside school and outside school. The discrepancy between inside and outside school, as well as the ability by CAAC to measure
this discrepancy, has been already empirically demonstrated in past research (e.g., Holland, 1961; Milgram & Hong, 1999; Paek et al.,
2016; Runco et al., 2017). All CAAC subscales showed an acceptable reliability: inside school artistic creative achievement, α = 0.76;
outside school artistic creative achievement, α = 0.70; inside school everyday creative achievement, α = 0.76; and outside school
everyday creative achievement, α = 0.80.

2.2.2. Motivation
Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation were assessed by a self-evaluation questionnaire, the Work Preference Inventory (WPI; Amabile,
Hill, Hennessey, & Tighe, 1994). The original 30-item version was developed for professionally active adults and was later adapted to
the student population. In the present study, the student version was used (Amabile et al., 1994). Specifically, the responses were
given on a 4-point Likert scale, ranging from 1 “never or almost never true for me” to 4 “always or almost always true for me”. Both
scales showed an acceptable reliability: intrinsic motivation, α = 0.66, and extrinsic motivation, α = 0.74.

2.2.3. Personality
Big Five personality was assessed by a 10-item short version of the Big Five Inventory, the Ten Item Personality Inventory (TIPI;
Gosling, Rentfrow, & Swann, 2003). The Big Five model includes Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agree-
ableness, and Emotional Stability (Costa & McCrae, 1985, 1989, 1992). The TIPI scale was shown to be a reliable tool for rapid
assessment of the Big Five traits, whose validity has already previously been established (for example with good test-retest reliability;
Gosling et al., 2003). In the TIPI scale every item consists of two adjectives, corresponding to the positive versus negative extreme of
the corresponding Big Five dimension. Each item starts with the description “I see myself as:’’. Responses are given on a 7-point scale,
ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). Participants were asked to indicate the extent to which every pair of opposite
traits applied to them, even if one extreme applied more strongly than the other. As a consequence of our aims, only the openness to
experience scores were then included in the statistical analyses.

2.2.4. Divergent thinking

Divergent thinking was assessed by the Figures task, which is part of the rCAB. It is very much like the well-known figural tests
that are widely used since their introduction by Wallach and Kogan (1965). Runco and Albert (1985) noted that figural tasks are
usually associated with higher originality scores than verbal tasks because of their lower task constraints and fewer rote associations.
In the present research, three abstract black and white drawings that consisted of different lines were used. Participants were invited
to list a as many alternative meanings for each of the pictures as they could. Divergent thinking tasks do not require participants to
find correct solutions but instead ask for a number of alternative responses to one general and ill-defined stimulus. To stimulate the
generation of large numbers of alternatives, participants were actively invited to produce as many responses as possible and to enjoy
themselves. They were reassured about the fact that their productions would not be graded and that their responses were con-
Participants generated a total of 2174 responses for the three figures altogether. Three judges independently rated the originality
of each response. For each figure, the responses were transcribed onto a spreadsheet and alphabetically ordered. This method ensured
that the ratings were not biased by the serial position of the response, the total number of responses in the set, and the preceding and
subsequent responses. Judges were required to read all the responses before scoring them, and to score them separately. Each
response was rated on a 1 (not at all original) to 5 (highly original) scale. This scoring procedure was originally proposed by Wilson,
Guilford, and Christensen (1953), to assess individual differences in originality. In their model, responses must be uncommon,
remote, and clever to be judged as creative. The present judges were asked to include these three criteria into their evaluation with
the understanding that a strength on one criterion could balance a weakness on another criterion. Inter-rater reliability calculated on
the total number of uses was good (Cohen’s κ from 0.54 to 0.79). In case of large discrepancies between ratings, the judges were asked
to review their responses and to assign a score by consensus.

3. Results

3.1. Descriptive statistics and correlations

Table 1 shows the descriptive statistics and the Pearson correlations between CAAC creative achievement scores, openness,
divergent thinking (responses originality), and motivation (intrinsic and extrinsic motivation). A first result showed a positive sig-
nificant association between intrinsic motivation and outside school creative achievement, both in the artistic (r = 0.23) and in the
everyday (r = 0.21) creative domain. A positive but non-significant correlation between inside school artistic and everyday creative

S. Agnoli et al. Thinking Skills and Creativity 28 (2018) 167–176

Table 1
Descriptive statistics and correlation matrix of artistic and everyday creative achievement within and outside of school, motivation variables,
openness, and originality (N = 93).
Variables M SD 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

** ** **
1. Artistic school Creat. 1.63 .45 1 .68 .66 .39 .13 .16 .16 .07
2. Everyday school Creat. 1.68 .43 1 .50** .60** −.03 .13 .11 .07
3. Artistic out school Creat. 1.75 .45 1 .56** .23** .06 .32** .29**
4. Everyday out school Creat. 2.42 .52 1 .21* .09 .16 .22*
5. Intrinsic Motivation 47.12 5.06 1 .01 .27** .27**
6. Extrinsic Motivation 37.15 7.33 1 .05 −.03
7. Openness 5.66 1.06 1 .20*
8. Originality 1.65 0.39 1

* p < .05 value.
** p < .01 value.

achievement and extrinsic motivation did also emerge (see Table 1). Moreover, correlations revealed that outside school creative
achievement (artistic and everyday) is more strongly associated with openness and originality than inside school creative achieve-
ment (see Table 1).

3.2. Structural equation modeling

Model estimation was performed with MPLUS 7.4. Specifically, the maximum likelihood procedure was used to generate 10,000
bootstrap samples and bias-corrected standard errors. All regression coefficients were standardized. The indicators of the latent
variables were let free to vary. We tested the model fit by the following indices: the chi-square statistic and the related p-value, the
comparative fit index (CFI), the Tucker-Lewis index (TLI), the root mean squared error of approximation (RMSEA), and the stan-
dardized root mean squared residual (SRMR). According to Kline (2005), a good model fit is indicated by a small ratio (< 3) between
the chi-square and the degrees of freedom (χ2/df), by a CFI and a TLI above .90, an RMSEA below .05, and an SRMR under .10.
The tested model showed a good fit, χ2 (12) = 15.89, p =.197; χ2/df = 1.32, CFI = 0.98, TLI = 0.96, RMSEA = 0.06, 90% CI
[.00, .13], SRMR = 0.03. Model fit was reached also through modification indices that suggested to add a correlation between the
everyday creative achievement scores in the two environments. The results of the structural regression model (Fig. 2) indicate that
the interaction term between openness to experience and intrinsic motivation was the strongest predictor of the inside school creative
achievement (β = 0.35, p = .006). In addition, extrinsic motivation was a significant predictor of inside school creative achievement
(β = 0.15, p = .05), while originality (β = 0.09, p = .499) and openness (β = −0.05, p = .689) were not. The overall variance
explained in the latent variable inside school creative achievement was R2 = 16%. The interaction between openness and intrinsic
motivation emerged as a strong predictor also for outside school creative achievement (β = 0.34, p = .002; Fig. 2). In addition,
originality resulted as a equally strong predictor of outside school creative achievement (β = 0.34, p = .002), but intrinsic motivation

Fig. 2. Structural model predicting inside and outside school creative achievement. Openness X Intrinsic = interaction of openness to experience
with intrinsic motivation. ns = not significant.

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(β = 0.06, p = .459) and openness (β = 0.08, p = .424) were not. The overall variance explained in the latent variable outside school
creative achievement was R2 = 35%.
To further investigate the nature of the interaction between openness and intrinsic motivation on creative achievement, a simple
slopes analysis was separately performed on inside and outside school creative achievement. This analysis revealed the same in-
teraction effect in both the inside and outside school environments: intrinsic motivation did not emerge as a significant predictor of
creative achievement at low levels of Openness (β = −.001, SE = .001, t = −0.73, p = .46 for inside school, β = 0.001,
SE = 0.001, t = 0.89, p = .37 for outside school), but only at medium (β = 0.005, SE = 0.002, t = 2.37, p = .02 for inside school, β
= 0.006, SE = .002, t = 2,85, p < .01 for outside school) and high levels of openness (β = 0.011, SE = .003, t = −2.90, p < .01 for
inside school, β = 0.012, SE = .004, t = 3.04, p < .01 for outside school). This means that in both environments the conjunction of
medium and high openness and intrinsic motivation was necessary for creative achievement to occur. In other words, intrinsic
motivation was a significant predictor of creative achievement only when it joined a sufficient level of openness to experience.

4. Discussion

The present paper dissected the role of motivation and its interaction with openness to experience and originality to explain
creative achievement in different contexts. In particular, we analyzed two environments: the within school environment and the
outside school environment. Results showed that the interaction between openness and intrinsic motivation acted as a main force in
predicting creative achievement. This interaction predicted both inside and outside school creative achievement, showing that the
inside school environment was influenced by both extrinsic and intrinsic tendencies. The latter also involved an interaction with the
openness to experience personality trait. Finally, our model showed originality as a main predictor of creative achievement only for
the outside school environment.
As hypothesized, extrinsic motivation positively predicted creative achievement inside school. This result is logically compre-
hensible and totally in line with recent research on the comparison of curricular and extracurricular creativity (Runco et al., 2016).
Inside the school context, indeed, people often do not perform creative activities out of their own choice but because the study
program requires them to do so. Their predominant motivation for completing them might be good marks, pleasing the teacher or
making a good impression on their fellow students. Moreover, this could really be the reason why originality, as hypothesized, was
only a predictor of outside school creative achievement. Inside the school context, extrinsic motivators might override the importance
of creative abilities measured by originality, which is instead a key element for achieving a creative success in outside school
contexts. The predictive value of originality on creative achievement is in line with results showing the importance of originality in
the explanation of creative potential over and above openness to experience (e.g., Jauk et al., 2014). Our results indeed confirmed
that outside the school context having original ideas is undoubtedly a fundamental element to achieve creative success. It could be
instead hypothesized that in the school context, the most adapted performers are those that strive for good grades and recognition by
teachers and peers. As a consequence, some pupils with a high potential for creativity might be overlooked because their performance
is not driven by extrinsic motivators. This interpretation seems to be confirmed by recent data (Runco et al., 2017) showing that the
creative potential is not adequately expressed within the school environment. This has important implications for the educational
contexts when it comes to spotting creative talents. Moreover, serious reflection on the reasons underlying the discrepant role of
creative potential between inside- and outside-of-school environments should arise from this result. How can one insure that the
creative potential that is so important when outside of school is also expressed and manifested when individuals are in school? Our
results can be interpreted as meaning that schools are not really supporting students’ creative potential (Kim, 2011). As already stated
by Runco et al. (2017) this should not be seen as criticism to teachers. It is indeed clear that the fulfilment of creative potential
depends strongly on the “goodness of fit” between students and their environment (Runco, 2001, 2016). Since the scholastic en-
vironment is really complex, a good fit to school requires highly adaptive capacities. As stated elsewhere (Runco et al., 2017), there
are, for example, governmental and administrative pressures, as well as several fundamental incompatibilities between creativity and
the school environment, all elements which do not pertain to the role of teachers. Creativity often requires autonomy and in-
dependence, which are instead frequently hindered by school settings. The creativity gap could be diminished to the extent that at
least the independence and autonomy required by creative activities are recognized and supported in school settings (Runco et al.,
2017; Torrance, 1977).
With regard to the interaction between intrinsic motivation and personality, our analyses revealed that both ingredients ein-
trinsic motivation and openness ewere simultaneously required for creative achievement to occur. Neither intrinsic motivation nor
openness emerged indeed as independent significant predictors, but their effect on creative achievement emerged only if they are
explored in interaction. Also outside the school environment, where intrinsic motivation seems to be a main force driving creative
behaviour, our results revealed that it does not work in isolation but only in combination with the openness personality trait,
confirming past findings by Prabhu et al. (2008). Openness and intrinsic motivation acted therefore in conjunction with each other, in
the sense that openness moderated the effect of intrinsic motivation on creative achievement. This result confirmed the finding by
Entwistle (1988) who demonstrated that students high in openness to experience showed higher levels of intrinsic motivation. As
stated by Prabhu et al. (2008), indeed, openness helps in taking multiple perspectives and thereby in developing an interest in the
task itself. Our results in particular showed that only in the presence of sufficient openness, intrinsic motivation was a positive
predictor of creative achievement both inside and outside of the school environment. This means that especially inside school a
person must be open minded enough to use his/her intrinsic motivational tendencies to achieve creative success. The significance of
openness for creativity in different domains has been repeatedly highlighted and empirically supported (Agnoli et al., 2015; Batey &
Furnham, 2006; Feist, 1998; Prabhu et al., 2008) and again the present results confirm the importance of this personality trait on

S. Agnoli et al. Thinking Skills and Creativity 28 (2018) 167–176

creativity. In addition to this, the present research reveals that for spontaneous creative achievement to occur, openness to new
experience must be complemented by intrinsic motivation. Without its presence, creative achievement is less likely to arise. More-
over, according to the model of motivational synergy from Amabile (Amabile, 1993, 1996), the inside school environment results
testify that intrinsic and extrinsic motivation can act in a synergic way in order to achieve creative success. Once again this result
demonstrates that extrinsic and intrinsic motivation tendencies do not exclude each other, but that these tendencies can dynamically
co-exist in driving the creative behaviour.

4.1. Conclusions and future developments

The present research made a first exploration of the role of motivation in conjunction with openness to experience and creative
abilities on creative achievement, by using a latent variable modeling approach and by considering two different contexts for creative
achievement. The results emerged from this study open up new windows of investigation with regard to the entire cognitive and
conative creative profile within different contexts, especially for the investigation of the dynamic role of motivation in determining
context-specific creative potential (Corazza, 2016). Moreover, our results can provide useful insights to the educational practice
directed towards the fostering of creativity within school. The first aspect regards the nurturing of teachers’ ethos (Lin, 2011), which
includes conserving an open attitude towards creative behavior, and especially valuing independence of thinking. In addition, our
results indicate that educational approaches should not only use imaginative approaches to make learning more interesting, at-
tracting therefore students’ intrinsic motivation tendencies, but also promoting their open-mindedness. This second aspect emerged
to be essential, enabling intrinsic motivation (i.e., students’ interest) to be effective on creative success within school. Fostering open-
mindedness emerged to be therefore a prerequisite in order to allow intrinsic motivation to expand to a wide array of activities.
Finally, since creative success within the inside-school environment is predicted by both intrinsic and extrinsic motivational attitudes,
we can infer that the cumulative action of these motivational drives could potentially produce high creative achievements. The school
environment emerged from these results to be a context with a high potential to express outstanding creative acts. The most im-
portant issue from an educational point of view is finding the right approach to foster and realize the hidden potential which is still
not expressed.
However, some limitations of the present work should be highlighted. A first element to consider is the limited number of
investigated creative domains. The analysis of a larger number of knowledge domains measured by the CAAC questionnaire would
enhance the generalizability of the present results. The same holds for the replication of these results in different populations. In the
present study, creative achievement was only measured for university students. We therefore exhort future research to replicate our
preliminary results and expand our findings with larger samples involving also students of different educational levels (e.g., primary
and secondary school). This approach, in particular, could reveal whether the role of motivation and openness on creative
achievement is subject to developmental changes or to changes related to the educational level. Moreover, we encourage future
studies to explore creative achievement in professionally active populations, both inside and outside the working environment. This
could provide interesting insights on the interactional effects of motivation and personality on creative achievement along the
developmental span. Finally, future research shall explore the interaction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in predicting
creative success within different environments including a larger number of domain-specific variables, in order to understand the
generalizability of the role of motivation over creativity within different cultural realms.
We conclude by noting that educating younger generations to creativity should not be considered an option but a true necessity,
in view of the fast approaching transition from the information society to the post-information society (Corazza, 2017).


Paper supported by the CREAM project funded by the European Commission under Grant Agreement no. 262022. This publication
reflects the views only of the authors, and the European Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of
the information contained therein.


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