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The relationship between working memory and creative processes: evidence of the elaboration of creative strategies in semantic encoding

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posted on 2022-03-28, 19:48 authored by Ioannis Kalaitzidis
Working memory is defined as an online limited capacity storage and processing system consisting of: (a) short-term “stores”; (b) processes and strategies; and (c) executive attention. It is a functionally important system for processing a wide range of cognitive activities such as reasoning, learning and comprehension. Creativity involves the creation of an original and useful product. One of the main cognitive processes underpinning creativity is associative processing. Contemporary studies on human cognition have previously indirectly investigated the relationship between working memory and creativity. The majority of these recent studies hypothesise that working memory is prerequisite for creativity and more specifically, cognitive flexibility, abstract thinking, strategic planning, remote associations, convergent and divergent thinking. However, the main disadvantage of all of these studies is that they do not employ working memory tasks requiring creative abilities. There is no research to date which specifically investigates how creativity and creative strategies can affect the strategies incorporated in working memory processes. However, some assumptions can be indirectly draw from relevant contemporary research. For example, selective attention, which involves the ability to focus cognitiveresources on information relevant to goals, has been shown to influence workingmemory performance (Gazzaley & Nobre, 2012), while both modality dependentworking memory mechanisms and modality independent attention control mechanisms do have an impact on insight problem solving (Chein & Weisberg, 2013). Furthermore, Lee and Therriault (2013) link working memory prerformance with the underlying cognitive mechanisms of divergent, convergent thinking as well as associative processing, albeit indirectly. Further indirect support for the association between working memory and creativity comes from neuropsychological studies as well medical studies (Swartwood, Swartwood & Farrell, 2003). These limitations result in an absence of direct ananlysis of how creativity and creative strategies are related to the strategies incorporated in working memory processes. The main hypothesis of the study, that creative individuals employ creative strategies during specific working memory processing, seeks to correct this gap in research. It was tested against a population sample comprised of 276 adults attending Greek universities. Participants were tested on a battery of tasks including the Remote Associates Test (RAT) and two immediate free recall tasks in Greek, one consisting of 14 sets of semantically similar items and a second consisting of 14 sets of semantically dissimilar items. The analysis reveals a strong negative correlation (r = –.823) between the difference of performance in the two recall tasks and the RAT. Partial correlation between the RAT score and performance on semantically dissimilar items was positively strong r = .827. These findings indicate that creative individuals employ semantic strategies for demanding tasks whereas less creative individuals fail to adopt demanding/creative strategies. However, correlation between the RAT scores and recall of similar items also revealed a weak negative correlation, r = –.179, indicating that creative individuals are at a disadvantage in recall tasks that facilitate automatic strategies, as they fail to inhibit the flow of irrelevant information. Finally, the findings from this study suggest that creative individuals are flexible in switching between online recall strategies thereby overriding the effects caused by the characteristics of the task.


Table of Contents

1. Introduction -- 2. Working memory -- 3. Creativity -- 4. Creativity and working memory -- 5. Methodology of the experiment -- 6. Results -- 7. Discussion -- Appendices -- References.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 228-265

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of International Studies: Languages and Cultures

Department, Centre or School

Department of International Studies, Languages and Cultures

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Elizabeth Kefallinos

Additional Supervisor 1

Naomi Sweller


Copyright Ioannis Kalaitzidis 2017. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (xiii, 265 pages)

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