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The role of semantic associations in creativity : semantic memory structure, flexibility and underlying brain mechanisms

Abstract : Creativity is a high-level cognitive function at the basis of various domains of human activity. However, this human capacity, while essential to face the challenges of our society as well as our daily lives, is still poorly understood. Previous research indicates that individual differences in semantic memory structure and processes contribute to individual’s creative abilities. In this thesis, we aim to better understand the relationships between semantic memory and creativity and the underlying brain correlates. In the first part of this thesis, we performed two studies to explore how the properties of semantic memory and brain networks relate to creative behavior. First, in a behavioral study, we investigated the relationships between semantic memory organization and creative thinking. By means of network-based methods, we built individual semantic networks as a proxy of the semantic memory structure and explored their properties in relation to creative abilities. We found that individual differences in semantic network properties correlated to divergent thinking and to creative behavior in real life. Then, in a second study, we replicated these findings and explored the brain functional connectivity underlying the semantic network properties predicting real-life creativity. We found that unique brain functional connectivity patterns underlying the modularity of individual semantic networks predicted individual differences in real-life creative behavior. In the second part, we examined the cognitive processes of semantic memory search that allow higher creative abilities and explored their brain correlates. We found two components that reflected 1) attentional focus allowing persistent search behavior and 2) the flexibility in memory. The first component related to divergent thinking while the second one related to convergent creative thinking. Finally, in the last part, by means of the semantic priming approach, we explored the different types of relationships that participate in the organization of semantic memory. We specifically investigated whether the implicit retrieval of a thematic and taxonomic category is facilitated by two words belonging to this category more than by a single exemplar. We found larger and additive priming in the double priming compared to the single priming condition at the behavioral and electrophysiological level. Our findings improved the actual knowledge on the organization of semantic memory into categories and how related concepts implicitly associate to each other in memory. Altogether, these findings shed light on several neurocognitive mechanisms related to semantic memory structure and processes involved in creativity. This work may also provide new tools that could be useful in future research on creativity.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, April 12, 2022 - 2:55:15 PM
Last modification on : Friday, May 20, 2022 - 11:06:56 AM


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  • HAL Id : tel-03639038, version 1


Marcela Ovando Tellez. The role of semantic associations in creativity : semantic memory structure, flexibility and underlying brain mechanisms. Neurons and Cognition [q-bio.NC]. Sorbonne Université, 2021. English. ⟨NNT : 2021SORUS399⟩. ⟨tel-03639038⟩



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