Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Colin Martindale

Second Committee Member

Roger Frey

Third Committee Member

Marie J. Hayes


Eysenck (1995) and Martindale (1999) have proposed that creativity is characterized by cognitive disinhibition. Cognitive disinhibition is hypothesized to underlie many of the cognitive processes that have been associated with creative cognition, such as defocused attention and wide associative horizon. Whereas Eysenck (1995) argued that lower cognitive inhibition is a relatively permanent characteristic of the thinking style of creative people, Martindale (1999) has argued that creative people can focus or defocus attention depending on task demands. This dissertation describes four experiments that were designed to test the disinhibition theory in general, and specific predictions derived from Eysenck's and Martindale's versions of the theory in particular. In the first experiment, participants were presented with pairs of stimuli and instructed to determine whether the two stimuli were related. Participants who scored higher on the Remote Associates Test were faster in this task compared to those who scored lower. The result supported Eysenck's (1995) and Martindale's (1999) theories, suggesting that in creative people priming a concept is likely to activate representations of that concept more quickly than it would in noncreative people. The second experiment involved an investigation of the relationship between creativity and performance on a proactive inhibition task. The proactive inhibition task involves memory performance on five successive trials. Participants with higher scores on the Creative Personality Scale performed worse on the third trial than those with lower scores. This finding did not support the disinhibition theory. The third experiment was an investigation of the relationship between creativity and performance on a dichotic listening task. The results demonstrated that participants with higher scores on the Creative Personality Scale had better memory for words that were presented to the shadowed ear. Participants with higher scores on the Remote Associates Test had better memory for high-association words in the unattended ear. These results suggest that creative people can focus attention successfully, unless conditions facilitate a switching to a defocused mode. The fourth experiment involved the identification of colors that varied in terms of ambiguity. Creative participants were faster in identifying colors regardless of ambiguity. The addition of a concurrent task to the color identification task had a more detrimental effect on the performance of noncreative females than it did on the performance of creative females. The results suggest that in this experiment, ambiguity was conceptualized differently than it was by Kwiatkowski, Vartanian, and Martindale (1999), who found that creative participants were slower in a task that involved ambiguity.

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Psychology Commons