Gender differences in creative thinking: behavioral and fMRI findings

Brain Imaging Behav. 2014 Mar;8(1):39-51. doi: 10.1007/s11682-013-9241-4.


Gender differences in creativity have been widely studied in behavioral investigations, but this topic has rarely been the focus of neuroscientific research. The current paper presents follow-up analyses of a previous fMRI study (Abraham et al., Neuropsychologia 50(8):1906-1917, 2012b), in which behavioral and brain function during creative conceptual expansion as well as general divergent thinking were explored. Here, we focus on gender differences within the same sample. Conceptual expansion was assessed with the alternate uses task relative to the object location task, whereas divergent thinking was assessed in terms of responses across both the alternate uses and object location tasks relative to n-back working memory tasks. While men and women were indistinguishable in terms of behavioral performance across all tasks, the pattern of brain activity while engaged in the tasks in question was indicative of strategy differences between the genders. Brain areas related to semantic cognition, rule learning and decision making were preferentially engaged in men during conceptual expansion, whereas women displayed higher activity in regions related to speech processing and social perception. During divergent thinking, declarative memory related regions were strongly activated in men, while regions involved in theory of mind and self-referential processing were more engaged in women. The implications of gender differences in adopted strategies or cognitive style when faced with generative tasks are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Creativity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Thinking / physiology*
  • Young Adult