back to paper options

Creativity and psi-correlation

The suggestion of a link between creativity and psi is not a recent one and has undergone a rich and varied experimental past. The history of parapsychological research has been influenced by the early observations of Myers (1903) which led him to believe that there was a distinct relation between psi ability and creativity where a subtle yet fundamental link between the subconscious and conscious is utilised to experience psi via mental imagery.

Visual imagery and visualisation are purported to be essential in everyday thinking and thought production (Cooper, 1990; Finke, 1989; Finke and Shephard, 1986); furthermore Arthur Koestler (1964), suggested that this was essential to insight and is further supported by Miller, (1984); and Shephard, (1988). A Creativity and psi link appear to be again supported by studies by Schmeidler (1988) where she states that 9 out of 14 studies yielded a positive correlation between creativity and psi. Dalton goes on to point out that as according to Palmer (1978) and Sondow (1987), there have been differences in experimental measurement between the studies examined.

Dalton suggests that both visual perception and psi are internally directed mechanisms of cognitive function and that the variance among individual's psi abilities and creativity are positively correlated and here she infers that the creative individual may be more adept at psi tasks due to there enhanced use of mental imagery. By this, Dalton suggests that creative people filter and analyse the sensory information (according to rigid schemas, perhaps?) from the environment less than non-creative people and therefore have this wider and more detailed source of imagery from which they can perceive psi related information. She further suggests that creative people are also open to more of a variety of information sources that non-creative individuals and hence have more opportunity to detect such subtle or possibly extra-sensory information (I accept the term “extra-sensory” to mean beyond the commonly accepted senses rather than aside from the senses being currently used).

There is the bigger issue, as discussed in her thesis that psychometric testing and the measures undertaking in the studies discussed may not have been measuring creativity at all, making room for series doubts over the validity of the claims of a psi-creativity link. Interestingly, Anderson (1962) states that the desire to attain ones goals, desires and potentials is the motivation behind both psi and creativity. Perhaps, we could speculate however, that this is unsurprising since many spontaneous and deliberate uses of psi arise out of deliberate attempts at precognition and clairvoyance from a person seeking reassurance and focus.

With regards to the measure of creativity used, both Schmeidler and Levine, and Stowell, have used Guilfords tests; test of Divergent Thinking by the former and Classes of Uses test by the latter. Furthermore, Schmeidler (1963) also used a test created by Barron (1958) which was designed to examine independence of judgement. Exactly what relation to creativity “independence of judgement” has, is not examined but I suspect that perhaps it is closely related to diversity in application of ideas and thought generation. Dalton refers to mixed results, where apparent creativity and psi seemed to negatively correlate; and a significant difference was seen between those scoring significantly higher and those scoring significantly lower than was expected by chance; this indicated a difference between “sheep” and “goats”. According to Dalton , Schmeidler speculates that these results may be due to order effects of the tasks and/or aspects of creative thinking where forced choice questioning is restricting in some cognitive fashion. I might be inclined to speculate further that the idea of “independence of judgment” may relate to such a free-style of thinking and would be therefore, inclined to agree with Schmeidler that forced choice tasks would be counter intuitive to this line of enquiry.

The issues of “independence of judgement” and the mixed nature of results again appears where Schmeidler attempted to explore the usefulness of feedback for participants. Both significant psi-hitting and psi-missing scores were found on subsequent trials but some seemingly complex relationships emerged such as the positive correlation between ESP scores and originality measures, which were further influenced by feedback. The relationship of feedback to psi-hitting is rather confusing. It appears that participants would be less likely to “hit” if they were receiving feedback; perhaps feedback made them anxious about their attempts. Furthermore, Dalton refers to the work of Honorton, Ramsey and Cabibo (1975) where they found evidence that mood and environment would help determine the rate of psi-hitting and psi-missing. Their prediction of hostility and discomfort relating to psi-missing and warmth and respect relating to psi-hitting was confirmed; Dalton speculates that mood would affect unconscious processes and that the effects on psi (assuming it is in unconscious process) would therefore - as it is unconscious - go unnoticed by the participants. She further suggests that in order to maximise the potential for psi, we must endeavour to remove such detrimental elements and create as “psi-friendly” an environment as is possible.

Honorton appears to have added to the psi confusion as the results from his 1967 experiments demonstrated an overall psi-missing effect which seemed to be more related to low creativity-scoring participants. It should be noted, of course that different measures of creativity were used than in the work of Schmeidler; Levine and Stowell. Honorton used Torrence's (1963) Creative Motivation Scale; the Personal-Social Motivational Scale and Burkhart and Bernheim's Ice Question Test (1963). As has Sondow (1986)'s experiment - which seemed to measure various aspects of creativity – where no significant relationships were found. Perhaps the differences in psi-hitting and psi-missing can be related to different aspects of creativity; perhaps the originality and innovative aspects relate to psi-hitting where as some other related trait such as frustration/anxiety may be related to psi-hitting. Such ideas would prompt questioning of the fundamental differences between flexibility in thinking and anxiety. Perhaps anxiety is in some way rooted in circular thinking patterns and are therefore is less exploratory and conducive to originality.

Similarly, Dalton suggests that the repetitive nature of many psi tasks may be inhibitory to psi; she suggests that such tasks may frustrate highly creative individuals, and perhaps unconsciously used psi to miss the ESP targets. I find this intriguing but possibly a bit contentious as, it suggests that highly creative people are largely unaware of their feelings and intentions; I am inclined to think that such individuals are creative because they utilise their awareness of their self. Perhaps, however, creativity is born out of unconscious awareness of some kind, as many believe is psi. Further evidence for Dalton 's suggestions of frustration within psi tasks can be found in the results of a study conducted by Anderson (1966) where children were rated as one of three creativity categories by their teachers and then participated in a forced choice clairvoyance test. The three categories of “highly creative”, “somewhat Creative” and “uncreative” yielded results of the following: significantly above chance psi-hits for highly creative; significantly psi-missing for somewhat creative and a chance scoring for uncreative participants. This appears to be in line with Dalton's suggestion of artistic frustration with regards to psi-missing in the second category and she explains this as being due to the somewhat creative individuals as “just emerging as creative.” but it seems that those who scored as highly creative ought to be the most frustrated. Perhaps new definitions should be sought for degrees of creativity and measures of creative development sought in order to test this hypothesis. Free response tasks rather than forced choice, would as Dalton suggests be more suitable for creative individuals and this appears to have been what Moss and Gengerelli (1968); Moss (1969) and Gelade and Harvie (1975) all endorsed in their sender-receiver style experiments. In the first mentioned study, evidence for psi among artists was found and again a psi result was indicated among the creative groups of the second study. The Third study revealed more chance level psi-hitting scores. Interestingly, all three studies indicated that creativity was related to psi-hitting with relation to both senders and receivers; Palmer (1978).

Similarly, Pang and Frost (1967) found that their more creative participants in an ESP test scored better than the lesser creative participants scoring on the Barron – Welsh Art Scale (1963), but that these scores did not differ from chance expectations overall.

Jackson, Franzoi and Schmeidler (1977) also found that musicians tended to score higher on clairvoyance tasks than psychology students, although no significant difference in average score was found between the two groups. Again, although the results may be ambiguous in meaning, Braud and Lowenstein (1982) demonstrated once more that psi-hitting in their sample was more likely to be performed by significantly higher creative individuals than not so creative as measured by the Alternate Uses Test ( Guilford , 1959).

Personality and Mood were examined in relation to the creativity/psi hypothesis by McGuire, Percy and Carpenter (1974) where they used Nowlis Mood Adjective Check List (Nowlis, 1965); Gough's Californian Psychological Inventory (1987); the Welsh Figure Preference Test (Welsh, 1980) and a sheep-goat scale which is unidentified in Dalton's thesis. Their resulting conclusions were that their was a direct positive correlation between psi-hitting and the Welsh test indicating that “creative and intuitive” individuals tend to score higher on psi tasks. The specific measures of creativity seem to concentrate mainly on abstractedness in thinking and flexibility in conceptual thinking. We might infer this to be further support for the idea of originality and innovative thinking styles being conducive to psi. Aspects of personality and cognitive style also appear to correlate with psi performance - anxiety and psi, negatively correlate according to Palmer, (1978; 1982). Furthermore, this trend was supported by Schmeidler (1988) where she discovered that her lesser anxious or neurotic subjects scored higher psi scores over there more anxious/neurotic counterparts. Hence, it is theorised that comfortable experimental settings are more conducive to psi.

Research conducted which involved the concept of “belief in psi” in relation to clairvoyance, seems to reveal mixed results such as that conducted by Levine and Stowell (1963), where there was no significant ESP suggestive scoring from one experiment but a significant score was found in a second study. Dalton points out that the data is lacking in information such as the number of subjects or trials.

Further research by Barron and Mordkoff (1968) yielded results which added to the evidence for “originality” as a measure of creativity in relation to psi-hitting; however, their methods seem to be dubious and confounded as Dalton points out; their use of deceit may be unethical and counter productive to a comfortable and encouraging atmosphere; Dalton also suggests that their methodology of their sender-receiver pairing may have been problematic.

On deciding a hit or miss, various methods have been employed, rank ordering within a pool of random targets (including the target) seems like the best option, rather than almost arbitrary decisions made by the experimenters/researchers as Moriarty and Murphy (1967b) did and found a non-significant result.

The strongest evidence for psi, and for a psi-creativity link appears to come from the more recent, ganzfeld experiments such as Honorton and Schlitz (1992) where the Torrence Assessment of Creative Thinking (1990) was used to measure creativity and high positive psi scores were obtained overall, with the two most creative individuals (as measured) scoring exceptionally well on the psi task in comparison to the other participants. However, no overall creativity-psi relationship was evident until the two outliers removed. Interestingly, the two outliers are reported to have indicated the creativity–psi link being more specifically related to their measures of flexibility and elaboration. Morris, Cunningham, McAlpine and Taylor (1993) made intriguing findings with the ganzfeld settings again, where a strong psi effect was found and a positive correlation between creativity and success on the psi task. Furthermore, there appeared to have been order effects of psi success where the psi score tended to be higher when the first participant of each pair acted a sender than when the pair swapped roles.

As one of the “Big Five” (McCrae, Costa and Busch; 1986), openness (to experience) appears to have much in common with the measures of creativity and is now thought to relate to psi; in particular such sub-components as flexibility and originality. This speculation is based on the dimensions of openness – active imagination; aesthetic sensitivity; attentiveness to inner feelings; preference for variety; intellectual curiosity and independence of judgement. These six dimensions suggest to me – in their descriptive value - what has been more explicitly measured and positively correlated with psi-hitting in the afore mentioned experiments; evidence for the implication of such aspects of creativity and openness has been found by various researchers: Braud (1975); Honorton (1992); Kampen, Bierman and Wezelman, (1994); Broughton and Alexander(1995); Costa and McCrae (1985).

Openness as conducive to creativity has also been discussed and Schmeidler (1988) points out that openness is associated with imagination and perhaps this trait of openness is required of an individual to develop a creative nature.

Extraversion, creativity and psi have also been debated as to their relationship; Eysenck (1967) himself suggested that extroverts would naturally be better apt to succeed in psi tasks as they constantly look for stimuli and novel information more than do introverts. Furthermore, Dalton suggests that the novelty of experimental settings may be more favourable to extroverts rather than introverts and previous research suggests that free-response responses are favourable to extroverts due to their expressive or active nature. Schlitz and Honorton (1992) found a positive correlation between extroversion and psi-hitting in their ganzfeld study across their creative participants but no correlation between extraversion and creativity was clear. Similarly, Morris, et. al. (1993) found a correlation between extraversion and psi performance and they further note that the subscales of “activity” and “excitement seeking” are the factors behind this correlation.

Dissociation, creativity and psi is a further area of interest as previous parapsychological thinking and psychical research has purported (Irwin, 1994; Richeport, 1992; Gurney, Myres and Podmore (1886). The idea of utilising the shifts between levels of consciousness has been proposed as the whereabouts -in terms of cognition- of psychic functioning such as the ideas of Braud (1988). The ganzfeld techniques help to “inward focus” the participants' experiences and attempt to dissociate the participant from normal sensory cues. Dalton suggests that both creativity and psi states are considered to be dissociative and enhanced by altered states of consciousness as purported by Anderson (1962) and Wallas (1926); she further refers to the work of Barron as being insightful as to the use of dissociation in creativity where creative individuals who feel a “creative block” tend to deliberately isolate themselves in some manner in order to induce their creative sides or await inspiration.


Aspects of personality and cognitive style appear to correlate with psi performance and the development/utility of creativity.

Many different tests of creativity have been employed over the years such as; Divergent Thinking; Classes of Uses; independence of judgement; Creative Motivation Scale; Personal-Social Motivational Scale; Ice Question Test; Art Scale; Alternate Uses Test and Thematic Apperception Test. All have been used to measure creativity –but were all likely to be measuring something different.

It seems that where originality has been measured, a positive psi-hitting correlation is found. Perhaps such tests stimulate the appropriate cognitive functions most conducive to psi. Dalton logically suggests that measures of creativity would be more fruitful if used in a systematic fashion of testing; not as I infer at intuitive hunches, availability or preference of the experimenters who design the experiments. Similarly, when rating hits and misses, care must be taken to avoid only measuring what we personally perceive as relevant.

Free association style tests such as in the auto-ganzfeld technique, seem to be the logical choice to make based on the evidence against forced choice responses being related to frustration and closed to the desirable, flexibility and originality; Moss (1969).

Furthermore, we can learn from the previous experiments which investigated creativity measurements, by default and develop measure which relate to flexibility in thinking – originality/innovation/openness.

We have also learned factors which may inhibit psi-hitting and ESP – negative moods, suspicion, anxiety, frustration, ego controls, apprehension, forced choice tasks, pressure to perform and even order effects/repetition. Hence, Forced choice tests should be avoided and the most accepting and encouraging of environments in which originality/innovation/openness can be optimised. Perhaps the employment of creative senders as well as receivers is also well worth considering. Until these hypotheses move towards a set of more perspicacious relationships, we must endeavour to keep afloat of the semantic distinctions and be both creative and systematic in our research.

back to paper options

© 2004