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The Present Review

Based on the growing body of literature examining psychological elements at play in creativity, we propose that three sets of factors need considering in order to understand the effects of aging. We begin by reviewing factors related to (a) cognition and expertise, including cognitive abilities, originality, mind-wandering, knowledge and expertise, intuition, pattern recognition, and heuristics. Next, we consider the role of factors related to (b) personality and motivation, including flexibility, openness to experience, integrative complexity, strength of interest, intrinsic motivation, ambition, grit, optimism, confidence, self-efficacy, and energy. Finally, we examine the contribution of (c) interpersonal processes, such as having a good sense of the audience and engaging in collaboration.

Although this list of factors is not exhaustive, these are the most important and thoroughly researched psychological influences.

Cognition and Expertise

Cognitive Abilities

Over the past 100 years, intelligence researchers have done a remarkable job cataloging covariations among various cognitive abilities (Carroll, 1993). The modern synthesis takes the form of the Cattell- Horn-Carroll (CHC) theory of cognitive abilities, which consists of nine broad cognitive abilities that have been consistently validated during the past decade (Schneider & McGrew, 2012):

  • 1. Fluid reasoning (Gf): "The deliberate but flexible control of attention to solve novel 'on the spot' problems that cannot be performed by relying exclusively on previously learned habits, schemas, and scripts."
  • 2. Crystallized intelligence (Gc): "Depth and breadth of knowledge and skills that are valued by one's culture."
  • 3. Short-term memory (Gsm): "The ability to encode, maintain, and manipulate information in one's immediate awareness."
  • 4. Long-term storage and retrieval (Glr): "The ability to store, consolidate, and retrieve information over period of time measures in minutes, hours, days, and years."
  • 5. Visual processing (Gv): "The ability to make use of simulated mental imagery (often in conjunction with currently perceived images) to solve problems."
  • 6. Auditory processing (Ga): "The ability to detect and process meaningful nonverbal information in sound."
  • 7. Processing speed (Gs): "The ability to perform simple repetitive cognitive tasks quickly and fluently."
  • 8. Quantitative knowledge (Gq): "Depth and breadth of knowledge related to mathematics."
  • 9. Reading and Writing (Grw): "Depth and breadth of knowledge and skills related to written language."

While partially distinct, all nine of these broad cognitive abilities are positively correlated with each other, and are positively correlated, in varying degrees, with a more global cognitive ability factor, g (Carroll, 1993; Jensen, 1998).

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