Is Creativity Genetic? Uncovering The Evidence

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Is Creativity Genetic? Uncovering The Evidence

Date of Content: February 15, 2024
Written by: Avanthika Nityanand
Reviewed by: Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD


Creativity is generating or recognizing ideas, alternatives, or possibilities useful in solving problems, communicating, and entertaining ourselves and others. It involves thinking outside the conventional boundaries, sometimes called lateral thinking, to develop innovative solutions or produce artistic expressions. 

Creativity is not limited to artistic endeavors like painting or writing poetry. It encompasses problem-solving in many areas of life, including science, business, and everyday life challenges. Creativity lies in seeing what everyone else has seen but thinking what no one else has thought. It is about connecting seemingly unrelated phenomena and developing new and helpful ideas. 

Creativity involves two processes: thinking and then producing. If you have ideas but don’t act on them, you are imaginative but not creative. Creativity marks the ability to create something new, an idea, a solution, or an object.

Several famous behavioral psychology experiments have shed light on various aspects of creativity, exploring how it can be influenced, measured, and understood. Here are a few notable examples:


The Marshmallow Test

While not directly an experiment on creativity, Walter Mischel’s Marshmallow Test has implications for understanding self-control and delayed gratification, which are crucial for the creative process. In the 1960s and 70s, children had a choice between one marshmallow they could eat immediately or two marshmallows if they waited for a short period. Follow-up studies showed that children who waited tended to have better life outcomes, including higher SAT scores and better problem-solving abilities, suggesting a link between self-control, future success, and potentially creative problem-solving.

The Candle Problem

First given by Karl Duncker in 1945, the Candle Problem is a classic test of creative problem-solving. Participants are presented with a candle, a box of thumbtacks, and a book of matches and asked to fix the lit candle on a wall in a way so the wax doesn’t drip onto the table below. The solution requires seeing the box as more than a container for the tacks but as a potential candle holder, demonstrating functional fixedness and the ability to think creatively.

The Nine Dot Problem

It is another classic test of creative thinking, where participants are asked to connect nine dots arranged in a square using four straight lines without lifting their pen from the paper. The task challenges individuals to think outside the box since the solution requires extending lines beyond the square formed by the dots.

The Remote Associates Test (RAT)

Developed by Sarnoff Mednick in 1962, the RAT assesses creativity by asking participants to find a common word that links three seemingly unrelated words. For example, the words “cottage,” “Swiss,” and “cake” are linked by the word “cheese.” This test measures the ability to think divergently and make unique connections, a key aspect of creativity.

The Alternative Uses Task (AUT)

This task, often associated with J.P. Guilford, asks participants to consider as many uses as possible for a common object, like a brick or paperclip. Scoring is based on fluency (number of ideas), originality (uniqueness of ideas), flexibility (variety of categories), and elaboration (amount of detail). AUT is a direct measure of divergent thinking, a critical component of creativity.

Can Creativity be Developed?

Creativity can indeed be developed. While some individuals may exhibit natural tendencies towards creative thinking, creativity is also a skill that can be nurtured and enhanced through practice and training. Developing creativity involves encouraging divergent thinking — generating many unique solutions to a problem — and convergent thinking — narrowing those solutions down to the best. Techniques to foster creativity include brainstorming, keeping an open mind, seeking new experiences, and engaging in creative exercises like drawing, writing, or artistic expression. 

Are you an open-minded person? Read more about the Genetics of Openness

Education systems that promote inquiry-based learning, critical thinking, and problem-solving also contribute to developing creative skills. Moreover, creating an environment that encourages experimentation, allows for failure, and values creative risk-taking is crucial for the growth of creativity. With persistence and practice, individuals can enhance their ability to think creatively and apply innovative solutions to complex problems.

Is Creativity Genetic?

Research suggests creativity has a genetic component, indicating that it can be somewhat inherited. Studies involving twins and families show that genetics contributes to various creative abilities and traits. 

An early twin study aimed to explore the genetic basis of creative ability by examining 117 pairs of twins aged 13–19, including identical and fraternal twins of both genders. Participants underwent ten creativity tests, some developed by Guilford, and a verbal intelligence measure. The findings showed that most intraclass correlations for creativity measures were statistically significant for monozygotic (identical) and dizygotic (fraternal) twins, with identical twins generally displaying higher correlations. 

However, the study recognized that it did not conclusively demonstrate a genetic component to creativity. It indicates that while genetic influences may exist, creativity is likely affected by a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors.

In 2015, the first reared-apart twin study on creativity explored applied creativity’s genetic and environmental origins, specifically through drawing tasks, namely Draw-a-House (DAH) and Draw-a-Person (DAP). The study included 69 monozygotic twins (identical twins raised in different environments) and 53 dizygotic twins (fraternal twins also raised apart). The findings revealed genetic influences on the DAP task, indicating that genetics plays a role in the ability to draw a person creatively. However, such genetic effects were not observed for the DAH task, suggesting that drawing a house might be more influenced by environmental factors or does not tap into the same creative abilities as the DAP task.

Genetic predisposition to creativity involves complex interactions among multiple genes and is influenced by the brain’s neurotransmitter systems, such as dopamine pathways, which are associated with novelty-seeking behavior and cognitive flexibility.


The COMT (Catechol-O-Methyltransferase) gene is essential in the metabolic pathway that breaks down catecholamines. Catecholamines are a group of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters play vital roles in the brain’s functioning and impact mood, stress response, and cognition. 

A 2014 study investigated the role of COMT and the dopamine D2 receptor gene (DRD2) in their contribution to creativity. The analysis revealed nominal associations of certain COMT SNPs with aspects of creative potential: rs174697 with verbal originality, rs737865 and rs5993883 with figural fluency, and rs737865 and rs4680 with figural originality. The study showed nominal evidence of COMT’s involvement in creative potential and highlighted the complex interplay between dopamine-related genes in influencing creativity. 

A 2018 study performed on Chinese university students showed that rs5993883 in the COMT gene is linked to convergent thinking. Convergent thinking is a creativity associated cognitive process in which a person aims to arrive at a single, correct solution to a problem. 

An interesting 2020 study investigated the interaction between genetic variations in the DRD2 and COMT genes and parenting style in predicting creativity in young adults. Specifically, two COMT polymorphisms (rs5993882 and rs5993883) were found to interact with maternal authoritativeness to influence creativity levels.


The SNAP25 gene codes for a protein that is an important part of our nervous system. This gene helps control the release of chemicals called neurotransmitters. Neurons use neurotransmitters to communicate with each other at connections called synapses. SNAP25 protein is involved in a group of proteins called the SNARE complex. This complex allows tiny bubbles called synaptic vesicles to attach and merge with the neuron’s membrane before sending neurotransmitters into the gap between neurons. This step is crucial for nerve cells to send signals quickly and efficiently to each other.

A 2018 study involving Chinese university students showed that rs362584 in the SNAP25 gene influences RAT performance related to convergent thinking. Additionally, this genetic variant has been linked to neuroticism, a trait thought to affect creativity inversely.

You may Also Like: The Genetics of Neuroticism


The KATNAL2 gene is responsible for producing a protein that belongs to the katanin family, which includes enzymes with a specific and important function: cutting microtubules. Microtubules are like the cell’s skeleton; they give the cell its shape, help it move, and are crucial for moving materials inside the cell, and for the ability of the cell to divide and make new cells. By cutting microtubules, the katanin enzyme, including the sub-unit protein made by the KATNAL2 gene, plays a key role in controlling and organizing these structures. This action is essential for the cell to function properly, adapt to different needs, and ensure it can divide and grow as needed.

A 2018 study uncovered a link between the rs2576037 SNP in the KATNAL2 gene and performances in the Unusual Uses Test (UUT) regarding fluency and originality. The study observed that the KATNAL2 gene could influence creativity through its biological role and association with the conscientiousness personality trait, which has been linked to everyday creativity among Chinese undergraduates.

While genetic variants may provide the potential for differences in creative thinking, the development of creativity is also heavily influenced by nurturing, encouragement, and practice.

Signs that Your Child is Naturally Creative

Lifestyle Choices

Naturally creative children often display certain characteristics and behaviors from a young age. These may include an active imagination, often engaging in imaginative play, storytelling, or inventing games with complex rules. Such children may question norms and exhibit curiosity about the world around them, always asking “why” or “what if” questions. 

They might prefer unconventional methods of learning and solving problems, sometimes challenging authority or traditional ways of doing things. A strong inclination towards arts and crafts, music, dance, or artistic expression is another sign of creativity. These children often have a rich vocabulary and use language in unique ways. They are sensitive to beauty in art and nature and may prefer originality, often coming up with unique ideas. Recognizing and nurturing these signs early on can help develop a child’s creative potential.

5 Signs That You Are A Creative Thinker!

Recognizing whether you are a creative thinker can help you leverage your strengths in various aspects of life and work. Here are five signs that suggest you possess a creative thinking mindset:

You Don’t Just Go Along With Rules

Creative thinkers often challenge existing norms and are not satisfied with accepting things as they are. If you find yourself constantly asking “Why?” or “What if?” and thinking about how things could be different or improved, it’s a strong indication of a creative mindset.

You Can Connect The Dots

You likely have a creative mind if you see relationships between seemingly unrelated concepts or objects. This ability to link ideas from different domains is a hallmark of creative thinking, leading to innovative solutions and novel approaches.

You Are A Problem-Solver

Creative thinkers thrive on solving puzzles and finding solutions to complex problems. If you’re someone who doesn’t shy away from challenges and instead views them as exciting opportunities to exercise your creativity, this is a sign of a creative thinker.

You Have A Wild Imagination

Creative individuals often have a vivid imagination, effortlessly dreaming up new worlds, stories, or ideas. If you find yourself daydreaming, sketching, or inventing regularly, your imagination is likely fueling your creative thinking abilities.

You Thrive Amidst Uncertainty

While many people find change uncomfortable, creative thinkers are adaptable and see uncertainty as a playground for innovation. If you’re excited rather than frightened by the unknown and change, it suggests you have a creative approach to navigating life.

Read our full analysis: The Genetics of Risk-Taking

These signs are not exhaustive, and creativity can manifest in myriad ways depending on the individual. However, if you recognize these traits, you likely possess a creative thinking mindset that can be nurtured and harnessed in both personal and professional spheres.

About the LifeDNA Personality and Cognition Report

LifeDNA’s Personality & Cognition report covers an analysis of the creativity genes.

The LifeDNA Personality & Cognition Report offers intriguing insights into how your genetics might influence your behavior, emotions, and social interactions. Based on genetic markers associated with personality traits like introversion, extroversion, and emotional resilience, the report provides a detailed analysis to help you understand yourself better. Knowing your genetic predispositions can guide personal development, optimize relationships, and aid career satisfaction.

Also Read: A Full Walkthrough Of the LifeDNA Personality & Cognition Report


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*Understanding your genetics can offer valuable insights into your well-being, but it is not deterministic. Your traits can be influenced by the complex interplay involving nature, lifestyle, family history, and others.

Our reports and suggestions do not diagnose or treat any health conditions or provide any medical advice. Consult with a healthcare professional before making any major lifestyle changes or if you have any other concerns about your results.