Creativity has previously been linked with atypical attention, but it is not clear what aspects of attention, or what types of creativity are associated. Here we investigated specific neural markers of a very early form of attention, namely sensory gating, indexed by the P50 ERP, and how it relates to two measures of creativity: divergent thinking and real-world creative achievement. Data from 84 participants revealed that divergent thinking (assessed with the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking) was associated with selective sensory gating, whereas real-world creative achievement was associated with "leaky" sensory gating, both in zero-order correlations and when controlling for academic test scores in a regression. Thus both creativity measures related to sensory gating, but in opposite directions. Additionally, divergent thinking and real-world creative achievement did not interact in predicting P50 sensory gating, suggesting that these two creativity measures orthogonally relate to P50 sensory gating. Finally, the ERP effect was specific to the P50 - neither divergent thinking nor creative achievement were related to later components, such as the N100 and P200. Overall results suggest that leaky sensory gating may help people integrate ideas that are outside of focus of attention, leading to creativity in the real world; whereas divergent thinking, measured by divergent thinking tests which emphasize numerous responses within a limited time, may require selective sensory processing more than previously thought.
Keywords: Attention; Creative achievement; Creativity; Divergent thinking; P50; Sensory gating.
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