Commenter Ben writes:

The correlation between creativity and IQ isn’t particularly strong, is it?

I’ve always been very confused about this issue.  On the one hand, when I think of intelligent people,  I think of boring geeky people with no personality, like Laurie Strode from the original Halloween movie.

And yet, when I think of intelligence itself, I think of creativity.  In fact longtime readers know that I define intelligence as the cognitive capacity for adaptive behavior; the ability to take whatever situation you’re in and turn it around to your advantage, like when Laurie creatively turned a clothes hanger into a weapon in the film’s climax.

Many psychologists would simply define intelligence as the cognitive ability to problem solve, which is a more succinct way of saying the same thing.  These same psychologists would say creativity is the ability to have ideas that are both novel and valuable.

Well if an idea is valuable, it’s solved a problem has it not?  And if it’s novel, it means you’ve solved a problem few would have solved, which means you have a high IQ, right?

IQ tests are designed to measure g (whatever variable(s) “cause” all cognitive abilities to positively correlate) and as Charles Spearman noted, the best measures of g test the “eduction of relations and correlates”.  In other words, the tests that correlate most with IQ require you to see connections between seemingly different things (like a clothes hanger and a weapon), which as Spearman noted, is the essence of creative output in science, politics, and the arts.

So why then do we draw such a distinction between IQ and creativity?  And why do high IQ people often seem so uncreative?

It’s often said that necessity is the mother of invention.  High IQ people may seem uncreative because they don’t have to solve new problems or solve problems in new ways.  Because the conventional path is so easy for them, why depart from it?

While a poor student might drop out of high school to start a business or write a novel, a high IQ person might eschew such goals as too risky, and simply stay in school and settle for a happy middle class life.

At the highest levels,  an IQ of 160 doesn’t need to invent a whole new way of doing physics because he understands the conventional formulas.  By contrast an IQ of 150 might struggle to understand the textbook and be forced to simulate the problem using concrete examples, perhaps leading to new insights and a Nobel Prize.

So while IQ and creativity are more or less the same thing,  high IQ people might be less likely to end up situations where creativity is required, thus making them achieve less creatively than they could.  Further,  if you believe Rushton’s differential K theory, a lot of high IQ people will be introverted mentally stable rule followers,  which will make them seem less creative than extroverted psychotics.

However there may be some ways in which IQ and creativity are quite different.  IQ tests measure the ability to solve problems under standardized conditions: everyone is trying to solve the same problems in the same amount of time.  But this can be quite different from how creativity works, where people solve problems they’re not even trying to solve.

For a example, someone might see a beautiful lake and suddenly feel inspired to write a poem about it.  If the poem is valued by others, it can be considered an acted of problem solving in that it filled a needed space in the arts.  But because the artist can’t just voluntarily decide to write another beautiful poem the next week (he has to wait for the next flash of inspiration), it may not qualify as an ability in the technical literature, and since intelligence is an ability, this type of creativity might be largely separate from IQ.   It would still be correlated with IQ,  because inspiration requires seeing connections,  but there’s also an involuntary non-ability component linked to psychosis (perhaps low latent inhibition) which lowers the correlation.