Brain activity sensitive to visual congruency effects relates to divergent thinking

Brain Cogn. 2019 Oct:135:103587. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2019.103587. Epub 2019 Jul 18.


The present study used functional magnetic resonance imagining (fMRI) to examine the role of focused attention in divergent thinking and real-life creativity. Participants completed a Navon task, on which the stimuli consisted of a large letter made up of the smaller version of the same (congruent), or a different (incongruent) letter. Participants were cued to identify a letter at either the local or at the global level. A smaller congruency effect - how much faster people responded on the congruent than on the incongruent trials - was an index of focused attention. Overall, larger behavioral congruency effect was accompanied with increased activation in the anterior superior temporal gyrus (aSTG), and with increased activation in the left precuneus. Individual differences in divergent thinking, however, were associated with smaller behavioral congruency effect, as well as with smaller right aSTG increase on the incongruent versus congruent targets, suggesting that people with better performance on the divergent thinking tests have more focused attention. Real-world creativity was not associated with the congruency effect, or with any of the regions implicated in the congruency effect. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.

Keywords: Attention; Creative achievement; Creativity; Divergent thinking; aSTG; fMRI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Creativity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Thinking / physiology*
  • Young Adult