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Is Intelligence a Part of Creativity?

Intelligence and creativity have formed the cornerstone of studies in the educational system and psychology for a long time, with a key question being; is intelligence a part of creativity? Based on their co-occurrence, it is easy to confuse or mistake intelligence and creativity or completely miss the existing relationships. Scientists have tried to lessen this problem by examining, through a scientific approach, the relationship between intelligence and creativity, especially for gifted persons. Their findings on this relationship have often been tested using an approach that connects both to giftedness. Using this approach, three prepositions emerge; intelligence is necessary for creativity; creativity types arise from levels of intelligence; and giftedness is a balance between intelligence and creativity.

One way to affirm the relevance of intelligence to creativity or to confirm that intelligence is part of creativity is to use the Intelligence Quotient or IQ. In several studies, creativity is exposed at Intelligence Quotient (IQ) of 120. As such studies affirm, persons with intelligence levels below this standard cannot achieve creativity (Akhtar & Kartika, 2019). The evidence is presented from a wide range of samples in the different studies. The study by Olamafar et al. (2022) was carried out on 532 students between 15 and 18 years, out of which 70 scored 120 on the intelligence scale (Raven’s scale). These students were further subjected to a creativity test (Abdi-Schumacher), which revealed that those whose intelligence score was 120 also scored well on creativity. This finding confirmed the 120 IQ threshold for creativity to exhibit. This study revealed that intelligence is part of creativity. Furthermore, Nakano et al. (2021) conducted a study on 966 17-year-old gifted students. The results showed a positive and significant correlation, which confirmed that intelligence and creativity are positively related. As seen in the two studies, the 120 threshold is an important testament that for creativity to expose, there is a baseline of intelligence. It is an affirmation of the relevance of intelligence in creativity. Some studies also looked into higher intelligence versus higher creativity. These studies revealed that higher intelligence did not correlate with creativity (Olamafar et al., 2022). This means that intelligence only correlated with creativity at the established score of 120 and no higher. Thus, these studies confirm the centrality of intelligence in the occurrence of creativity while also affirming the 120 IQ threshold as the optimal level beyond which intelligence has no further correlation with creativity.

The use of intelligence to determine creativity is gaining importance as the connection becomes clearer. It is an easy way of helping society to understand why some people perform better in some creative aspects than others. Moreover, individual differences and individualized learning have become an important focus in academic and non-academic fields. Even though the 120 IQ score may not easily be decoded, the fact that it categorizes people against their predispositions or abilities means that it helps solve some of the problems related to understanding what people can achieve. This aspect is relevant in selecting careers. In addition, it becomes a practical focus for those aspiring to venture into creative talents. Similarly, for families grappling with career choices for their children, it becomes a yardstick and, therefore, something they can test. The reason is that intelligence tests are easy to administer once the purpose is clear. Besides families, the entertainment sector can also use the 120 IQ threshold to select those to engage in contracts. This assessment can be a good starting point in examining the potential of contracted artists to be creative enough to generate income. The bigger picture is that not everyone is gifted though they could be creative. Therefore, the 120 IQ threshold provides a simple mechanism to help families with career selections for their children.

Although the IQ element is very prominent, other points show intelligence as necessary for creativity. Related to the IQ levels is the type of intelligence versus the creative talents exposed. This line of thought contends that certain types of creative talents are more related to intelligence levels than others. This proposition was tested in the study by Nakano et al. (2021) by focusing on the total intelligence score against two creativity aspects: figural and verbal. It was found that whereas the total score correlated positively with verbal and figural creativity, the correlation was higher between intelligence score and verbal creativity than with figural creativity. It was concluded that the higher the intelligence, the greater the likelihood of exposure to verbal creative talents (Nakano et al., 2021). This relationship is highly exposed in society. However, it is a controversial one, given the existing views about artists. It is somehow thought that a general inability to progress in school by most artists somewhat confirms that their intelligence is below that of other professionals, such as doctors. The research on intelligence and creativity counters this claim and confirms that high intelligence can simply exhibit in one form of creativity and not necessarily all. Further, it is revealed that the ultimate goal is success in life in general. Thus, since artists such as rappers become influential and successful, they too qualify on the aspect of giftedness. This view solves the often cut-throat comparisons of professions. It identifies that instead of comparing professions, it is important to focus on what one desires to do, their giftedness in it, and what their intelligence supports. Therefore, the views on artists and their intelligence are areas society needs to re-evaluate amidst emerging information that confirms certain intelligence levels support some creative abilities more than others.

Another important consideration in the relationship between intelligence and creativity is the needed balance to reach giftedness. As Desmet et al. (2021) contend, giftedness requires the right proportions of intelligence and creativity. To this end, they must all exhibit at the same time, with specificity in giftedness. Their study on 710 seventh-grade students revealed that academic achievement was only present where inquisitiveness (creativity) was observed alongside high intelligence scores (Desmet et al., 2021). Their confirmatory study found that creativity alone could not explain or account for academic achievement.

Giftedness has always been studied in isolation. This is perhaps one of the early and critical reviews showing that this should not be the case. Instead of segregating students with giftedness, this review shows the need to identify what they could be gifted in more and the intelligence and creativity behind it. It is true that giftedness does not exist in isolation from creativity and intelligence. This means there can be a sure way of confirming giftedness and distinguishing it from bouts of passing enlightenment. The review confirms that intelligence and creativity are relatively stable when they occur together and thus should form the central point for confirming giftedness. Thus, these observations call into consciousness the consideration of intelligence and creativity measures in determining giftedness.

The above discussion answers the question of whether intelligence is part of creativity. The first argument contends that intelligence is necessary for creativity. According to this basic line of thought presented in the studies reviewed, there is no creativity without intelligence. Thus, creativity comes out of intelligence. The other conclusion from the studies relates to the insufficiency threshold. This threshold holds that despite intelligence being necessary, it is not enough to spur creativity. This is why high intelligence (above 120) does not correlate with increased creativity. This preposition does not counter the first one but confirms that intelligence is necessary to produce creativity. Besides the necessity and threshold, there is also the balance hypothesis, where it has been presented that for giftedness to expose, there must be a correct balance between intelligence and creativity. All these confirm the question and, thus, the hypothesis that intelligence is part of creativity.


Akhtar, H., & Kartika, Y. (2019). Intelligence and creativity: An investigation of thresholds

theory and its implications. Journal of Educational Psychology, 9(1), 131-138.

Desmet, O., Weerdenburg, M., Poelman, M., & Hoogeven, L. (2021). Validity and utility of the

test of creative thinking drawing production for Dutch adolescents. Journal of Advanced Academics, 32(1), 267-290.

Nakano, T. C., Ribeiro, W.J., & Virgolim A. M. (2021). Relationship between creativity and

intelligence in regular students and giftedness students. Psico-USF, 26(1), 103-116

Olamafar, M. M., Rajabi, M., Tajrishi, M. P., Adibsereshki, N., & Abadi, A. (2022). Association

between general intelligence, creativity and wisdom in gifted adolescents: Empirical findings from a non-western country. Current Psychology, 1-10.


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