Publications

Personality and Complex Brain Networks: The Role of Openness to Experience in Default Network Efficiency

November 27, 2015

Roger E. Beaty, Scott Barry Kaufman, Mathias Benedek, Rex E. Jung, Yoed N. Kenett, Emanuel Jauk, Aljoscha C. Neubauer, and Paul J. Silvia 

The brain’s default network (DN) has been a topic of considerable empirical interest. In fMRI research, DN activity is associated with spontaneous and self-generated cognition, such as mind-wandering, episodic memory retrieval, future thinking, mental simulation, theory of mind reasoning, and creative cogni- tion. Despite large literatures on developmental and disease-related influences on the DN, surprisingly little is known about the factors that impact normal variation in DN functioning. Using structural equation modeling and graph theoretical analysis of resting-state fMRI data, we provide evidence that Openness to Experience— a normally distributed personality trait reflecting a tendency to engage in imaginative, creative, and abstract cognitive processes—underlies efficiency of information processing within the DN. Across two studies, Openness predicted the global efficiency of a functional network comprised of DN nodes and corresponding edges. In Study 2, Openness remained a robust predictor—even after controlling for intelligence, age, gender, and other personality variables—explaining 18% of the variance in DN functioning. These findings point to a biological basis of Openness to Experience, and suggest that normally distributed personality traits affect the intrinsic architecture of large-scale brain systems.  

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World-Class Expertise: A Developmental Model

October 23, 2015

Scott Barry Kaufman and Angela Duckworth

The field of psychology has done a remarkable job discovering the ways people dif- fer from one another in their abilities and talents, but has long neglected the diverse ways people can unleash those capacities. There is no plausible mechanism by which our genes directly encode skills like how to dribble a basketball, play the vio- lin, or solve an algebraic equation. We are not born knowing how to write a sonnet or flip an omelet. On the contrary, all human expertise—even at the far-right tail of the distribution—depends on experience and training. A more accurate understanding of the development of high achievement should inspire people to push beyond their perceived and often self-imposed limits to reach heights they never would have imagined possible. 

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Default and Executive Network Coupling Supports Creative Idea Production

October 23, 2015

Roger E. Beaty, Mathias Benedek, Scott Barry Kaufman, and Paul J. Silvia

The role of attention in creative cognition remains controversial. Neuroimaging studies have reported activation of brain regions linked to both cognitive control and spontaneous imaginative processes, raising questions about how these regions interact to support creative thought. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we explored this question by examining dynamic interactions between brain regions during a divergent thinking task. Multivariate pattern analysis revealed a distributed network associated with divergent thinking, including several core hubs of the default (posterior cingulate) and executive (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) networks. The resting-state network affiliation of these regions was confirmed using data from an independent sample of participants. Graph theory analysis assessed global efficiency of the divergent thinking network, and network efficiency was found to increase as a function of individual differences in divergent thinking ability. Moreover, temporal connectivity analysis revealed increased coupling between default and salience network regions (bilateral insula) at the beginning of the task, followed by increased coupling between default and executive network regions at later stages. Such dynamic coupling suggests that divergent thinking involves cooperation between brain networks linked to cognitive control and spontaneous thought, which may reflect focused internal attention and the top-down control of spontaneous cognition during creative idea production.

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Openness to Experience and Intellect Differentially Predict Creative Achievement in the Arts and Sciences

September 30, 2015

Scott Barry Kaufman, Lena C. Quilty, Rachael G. Grazioplene, Jacob B. Hirsh, Jeremy R. Gray, Jordan B. Peterson, and Colin G. DeYoung

The Big Five personality dimension Openness/Intellect is the trait most closely associated with creativity and creative achievement. Little is known, however, regarding the discriminant validity of its two aspects—Openness to Experience (reflecting cognitive engagement with perception, fantasy, aesthetics, and emotions) and Intellect (reflecting cognitive engagement with abstract and semantic information, primarily through reasoning)—in relation to creativity. In four demographically diverse samples totaling 1,035 participants, we investigated the independent predictive validity of Openness and Intellect by assessing the relations among cognitive ability, divergent thinking, personality, and creative achievement across the arts and sciences. We confirmed the hypothesis that whereas Openness predicts creative achievement in the arts, Intellect predicts creative achievement in the sciences. Inclusion of performance measures of general cognitive ability and divergent thinking indicated that the relation of Intellect to scientific creativity may be due at least in part to these abilities. Lastly, we found that Extraversion additionally predicted creative achievement in the arts, independently of Openness. Results are discussed in the context of dual-process theory. 

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Creativity and Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders Across the Arts and Sciences

September 29, 2015

Scott Barry Kaufman

Researchers agree that mental illness is neither necessary nor sufficient for creativity. But is there still a significant link between the two?

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A Proposed Integration of the Expert Performance and Individual Differences Approaches to the Study

September 28, 2015

Scott Barry Kaufman

Important contributors to scientific progress are accurate framing of the issues, standing on a common ground of assumptions, and investigating the influence of traits on the development of expertise.

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Navigating Into the Future or Driven by the Past

September 27, 2015

Martin E. P. Seligman, Peter Railton, Roy F. Baumeister, and Chandra Sripada

Prospection (Gilbert & Wilson, 2007), the representation of possible futures, is a ubiquitous feature of the human mind. Much psychological theory and practice, in contrast, has understood human action as determined by the past and viewed any such teleology (selection of action in light of goals) as a violation of natural law because the future cannot act on the present. Prospection involves no backward causation; rather, it is guidance not by the future itself but by present, evaluative representations of possible future states. These representations can be understood minimally as “If X, then Y” conditionals, and the process of prospection can be understood as the generation and evaluation of these conditionals. We review the history of the attempt to cast teleology out of science, culminating in the failures of behaviorism and psychoanalysis to account adequately for action without teleology. A wide range of evidence suggests that prospection is a central organizing feature of perception, cognition, affect, memory, motivation, and action. The authors speculate that prospection casts new light on why subjectivity is part of consciousness, what is “free” and “willing” in “free will,” and on mental disorders and their treatment. Viewing behavior as driven by the past was a powerful framework that helped create scientific psychology, but accumulating evidence in a wide range of areas of research suggests a shift in framework, in which navigation into the future is seen as a core organizing principle of animal and human behavior.

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