Creative Minds at Rest: Creative Individuals are More Associative and Engaged with Their Idle Thoughts

Quentin Raffaelli, Rudy Malusa, Nadia Anais de Stefano, Eric Andrews, Matthew D. Grilli, Caitlin Mills, Darya L. Zabelina, Jessica R. Andrews-Hanna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite an established body of research characterizing how creative individuals explore their external world, relatively little is known about how such individuals navigate their inner mental life, especially in unstructured contexts such as periods of awake rest. Across two studies, the present manuscript tested the hypothesis that creative individuals are more engaged with their idle thoughts and more associative in the dynamic transitions between them. Study 1 captured the real-time conscious experiences of 81 adults as they voiced aloud the content of their mind moment-by-moment across a 10-minute unconstrained baseline period. Higher originality scores on a divergent thinking task were associated with less perceived boredom, more words spoken overall, more freely moving thoughts, and more loosely-associative (as opposed to sharp) transitions during the baseline rest period. In Study 2, across 2,612 participants, those who reported higher self-rated creativity also reported less perceived boredom during the COVID-19 pandemic, a time during which many people experienced unusually extended periods of unstructured free time. Overall, these results suggest a tendency for creative individuals to be more engaged and explorative with their thoughts when task demands are relaxed, raising implications for resting state functional MRI and societal trends to devalue idle time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCreativity Research Journal
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


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