Creative Minds at Rest: Creative Individuals are More Associative and Engaged with Their Idle Thoughts

Quentin Raffaelli, Rudy Malusa, Nadia Anais de Stefano, Eric Andrews, Matthew D. Grilli, Caitlin Mills, Darya L. Zabelina, Jessica R. Andrews-Hanna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Despite an established body of research characterizing how creative individuals explore their external world, relatively little is known about how such individuals navigate their inner mental life, especially in unstructured contexts such as periods of awake rest. Across two studies, the present manuscript tested the hypothesis that creative individuals are more engaged with their idle thoughts and more associative in the dynamic transitions between them. Study 1 captured the real-time conscious experiences of 81 adults as they voiced aloud the content of their mind moment-by-moment across a 10-minute unconstrained baseline period. Higher originality scores on a divergent thinking task were associated with less perceived boredom, more words spoken overall, more freely moving thoughts, and more loosely-associative (as opposed to sharp) transitions during the baseline rest period. In Study 2, across 2,612 participants, those who reported higher self-rated creativity also reported less perceived boredom during the COVID-19 pandemic, a time during which many people experienced unusually extended periods of unstructured free time. Overall, these results suggest a tendency for creative individuals to be more engaged and explorative with their thoughts when task demands are relaxed, raising implications for resting state functional MRI and societal trends to devalue idle time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCreativity Research Journal
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful for assistance from Sylvia Zarnescu, Rohith Boyilla, Kate Chambers, Surya Fitzgerald, Caitlin Cegavske, Freya Abraham, and Darrell Mason for their contribution to data collection, audio transcription, and/or coding of the data. We would like to thank Dr. Robert Wilson, Dr. Ying-Hui Chou, Dr. Matthias Mehl, and Dr. Mary-Frances O’Connor for helpful discussion related to this project. This project was supported by the National Institutes of Aging (R56AG068098 to J.A-H and M.G.) and pilot project grants (P30AG019610 to Dr. Eric Reiman, and the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium to JAH). Participant recruitment was facilitated with the help of resources from Dr. Matthew Huentelman and the MindCrowd registry, as well as the Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry (APR). The APR is supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging (1R01AG063954), the Alzheimer’s Association, Banner Alzheimer’s Foundation, Flinn Foundation, Geoffrey Beene Gives Back Alzheimer’s Initiative, GHR Foundation, and the State of Arizona (Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the named funders.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


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