Is there a correlation between high IQ for example over 125 and creativity?

Is creativity improved or does its importance simply diminish?

Maybe there could also be confounding variables as well? It can be easier to be creative if you're not the best in the world in something (surprisingly enough), since then it might motivate you to get off the beaten path.

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    $\begingroup$ Could you be more precise? Creativity is a broad and lousily defined word. For some artistic creativity it might be the case that it is not an issue; for academic mathematics I guess that every boost in IQ is beneficial (but even there it is not the only factor). Moreover, it would be hard make a numerical estimate of one's creativity. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 19, 2012 at 8:47
  • $\begingroup$ I also think this question may be too subjective... $\endgroup$
    – Josh
    Commented Jan 19, 2012 at 13:28
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    $\begingroup$ I believe this question is in regards to the IQ/creativity Threshold Theory, which I'm having a heck of a time finding a good, single page description of. If anyone finds one we should probably add it to the body of the question. $\endgroup$
    – Zelda
    Commented Jan 19, 2012 at 15:30
  • $\begingroup$ @BenBrocka: It's having to make assumptions like that which are signs of a bad question. -1 until he rephrases it to be more specific/adds sources. InquilineKea, please don't take this personal. Consider reading this meta post. $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    Commented Jan 19, 2012 at 15:47
  • $\begingroup$ ...depends on how much you believe the hemispheres each contribute to so-called IQ. $\endgroup$
    – PCARR
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 16:25

4 Answers 4


The article The Threshold Theory Regarding Creativity and Intelligence: An Empirical Test with Gifted and Nongifted Children found results that do not support this "Threshold Theory" of creativity.


Results of divergent thinking tests (administered to 228 intermediate school students, of whom about 43 percent were gifted) and calculated correlations between creativity and intelligence measures did not support the threshold theory which posits that creativity and intelligence are related only up to an intelligence quotient of about 120.

Can Only Intelligent People Be Creative? A Meta-Analysis by Kyung Hee Kim found a negligible correlation of IQ and creativity and does not support the Threshold Theory.

The mean correlation coefficient was small (r = .174; 95% CI = .165 – .183), but heterogeneous; this correlation coefficient indicates that the relationship between creativity test scores and IQ scores is negligible. Age contributed to the relationship between intelligence and creativity the most; different creativity tests contributed to it secondly. This study does not support threshold theory.

Several studies dispute the claims of Threshold Theory but the most interesting is probably Biochemical Support for the “Threshold” Theory of Creativity: A Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy Study which appears to show some support for the idea in a fairly rigorous biochemical method.

There is at best contentious support for the threshold theory, and perhaps more importantly the association between creativity and IQ seems rather weak.


Although the idea that IQ only enables creativity "up to IQ 120" is widespread (and repeated in pop-psych books such as those of Gladwell etc.), large scale studies of giftedness reliably find that the IQ and creativity are associated even at the very highest-extremes of ability. IQ is linearly related to creative achievement across the range (Wai et al., 2005).

A reanalysis by Silvia (2008) of the Wallach and Kogan (1965) paper which originated the idea of a 120 IQ "threshold" found that the original data do not sustain the idea of a critical level.

The suggestion above by @BenBrocka that creativity and IQ are not linked (or only weakly associated) is not supported by the weight of evidence. Nusbaum & Silvia (2011), for instance show that IQ accounts for around 40% of creativity.

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Nusbaum, E. C., & Silvia, P. J. (2011). Are intelligence and creativity really so different?: Fluid intelligence, executive processes, and strategy use in divergent thinking. Intelligence, 39(1), 36-45. pdf

Silvia, Paul J. (2008) Creativity and intelligence revisited: A latent variable analysis of Wallach and Kogan (1965). Creativity Research Journal 20. 34-39. pdf.

Wai, J., Lubinski, D., & Benbow, C. P. (2005). Creativity and occupational accomplishments among intellectually precocious youths: an age 13 to age 33 longitudinal study. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97, 484. pdf


There is an update regarding the debate on Threshold Theory. From Jauk et al (2013) "The relationship between intelligence and creativity: New support for the threshold hypothesis by means of empirical breakpoint detection":

One of the most prominent notions concerning the interplay between intelligence and creativity is the threshold hypothesis, which assumes that above-average intelligence represents a necessary condition for high-level creativity. ... The threshold hypothesis is commonly investigated by splitting a sample at a given threshold (e.g., at 120 IQ points) and estimating separate correlations for lower and upper IQ ranges. However, there is no compelling reason why the threshold should be fixed at an IQ of 120, and to date, no attempts have been made to detect the threshold empirically. ... Segmented regression allows for the detection of a threshold in continuous data by means of iterative computational algorithms. We found thresholds only for measures of creative potential but not for creative achievement. For the former the thresholds varied as a function of criteria: When investigating a liberal criterion of ideational originality (i.e., two original ideas), a threshold was detected at around 100 IQ points. In contrast, a threshold of 120 IQ points emerged when the criterion was more demanding (i.e., many original ideas). Moreover, an IQ of around 85 IQ points was found to form the threshold for a purely quantitative measure of creative potential (i.e., ideational fluency). These results confirm the threshold hypothesis for qualitative indicators of creative potential and may explain some of the observed discrepancies in previous research.


Generally, there is poor support for the threshold theory. Though the last poster referenced a newer study which applied 'empirical break-point detection', such results are unsurprising, because of their tautological nature. The results depend on a specific definition of what creativity is, and only then could the authors obtain a relationship. Furthermore, any relationship between creativity and IQ, is likely better explained by the mediation of specific sub-factors, for example long term memory fluency, complex fluency, and associative memory. Creativity is left best as being defined as, the ability to produce novel relationships. The threshold theory, is just a means for intelligentsia (analytical proponents) to inflate the value of IQ, and maintain their elitist and grandiose sense of worth.

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    $\begingroup$ Can you support any of these assertions with citations or sources for further reading? $\endgroup$
    – Krysta
    Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 14:25
  • $\begingroup$ huffingtonpost.com/scott-barry-kaufman/… $\endgroup$
    – BaldiniT
    Commented Aug 22, 2015 at 2:12
  • $\begingroup$ muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/… $\endgroup$
    – BaldiniT
    Commented Aug 22, 2015 at 2:13
  • $\begingroup$ kkim.wmwikis.net/file/view/… $\endgroup$
    – BaldiniT
    Commented Aug 22, 2015 at 2:15
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the links, but link-only answers/comments are minimally useful, both because they don't give readers any idea of what they will find there and because if the link breaks, all content is eliminated. It's generally a good idea to include a brief summary of the content to be found on the other side of the link. $\endgroup$
    – Krysta
    Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 13:49

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