Linking creativity and false memory: Common consequences of a flexible memory system

Cognition. 2021 Dec;217:104905. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2021.104905. Epub 2021 Sep 21.


Episodic retrieval plays a functional-adaptive role in supporting divergent thinking, the ability to creatively combine different pieces of information. However, the same constructive memory process that provides a functional-adaptive benefit can also leave memory prone to error. In two experiments, we employed an individual differences approach to examine the relationship between different forms of creative thinking (divergent and convergent thinking) and false memory generation in the Deese-Roediger-McDermott paradigm. In Experiment 1, and replicating prior findings, false recognition was significantly predicted by convergent thinking performance. Critically, we also observed a novel predictive relationship between false recognition and quantitative metrics of divergent thinking performance. In Experiment 2, these findings were replicated and we further showed that false recall was predicted by quantitative metrics of divergent thinking. Our findings suggest that constructive memory processes link creative thinking with the production of memory errors.

Keywords: Convergent thinking; Divergent thinking; Episodic memory; Memory distortion; Recall; Recognition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cognition
  • Creativity*
  • Humans
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Mental Recall
  • Thinking