Revisiting Mednick's (1962) Theory of Creativity with a Composite Measure of Creativity: The Effect of Stimulus Type on Word Association Production

Vitrano D., Altarriba J., Leblebici Başar D.

JOURNAL OF CREATIVE BEHAVIOR, vol.55, no.4, pp.925-936, 2021 (SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 55 Issue: 4
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Doi Number: 10.1002/jocb.498
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, EBSCO Education Source, Education Abstracts, Educational research abstracts (ERA), ERIC (Education Resources Information Center), Psycinfo
  • Page Numbers: pp.925-936
  • Keywords: creative thinking, word associations, word frequency, word type
  • Istanbul Technical University Affiliated: Yes


S.A. Mednick (1962) proposed a theory of creativity suggesting that highly creative individuals can produce more word associations to a stimulus than less creative individuals. Numerous studies have supported this theory using the Remote Associates Test (RAT) as the measure of creativity. Additionally, some studies have suggested that high-frequency words elicit more word associations overall than low-frequency words, and concrete words elicit more associations overall than abstract words. The current study further investigated Mednick's theory by (a) creating controlled lists of stimuli that can better uncover how word type (abstract versus concrete) and word frequency (high versus low) affect the number of word associations produced to a stimulus, (b) including several creativity tasks besides the RAT, and (c) examining the role of other factors in creative thinking, including intelligence and verbal fluency. Participants first completed a word association task with four different types of words (i.e., high-frequency concrete, low-frequency concrete, high-frequency abstract, and low-frequency abstract), and then completed a variety of tasks, including several creativity tasks. Participants were categorized as highly creative or less creative based on a composite measure of the creativity tasks. Highly creative individuals produced more associations overall, supporting Mednick's theory. Furthermore, high-frequency stimuli resulted in higher overall associative responses compared to low-frequency stimuli, but contrary to previous research, no differences emerged for concrete versus abstract stimuli. There was also no difference in intelligence scores between the two creativity groups, and only a marginally significant difference in verbal fluency scores.