The psychology of creativity

Many of my friends have the ability to draw brilliant pictures, create incredible music or write beautiful literature. As a psychology student, I’ve always wondered what separates these creative people from us mere mortals. What goes on inside their brain’s that allows them to open up and create? Is it something mystical, or is it a real physical phenomenon that can be measured

Before we go into this, we need a quick brain anatomy refresher to understand which parts of the brain deal with creativity.

Key facts


  • The brain is split into two hemispheres; the left and the right. They communicate with each other through a bundle of nerves called the corpus callosum
  • The brain is localised. This means that specific tasks are processed in specific areas of the brain, allowing it to be more efficient at information processing
  • In the most basic sense, the left hemisphere deals with processing logic and language, whereas the right deals spatial and more creative processes.

Creativity of music

Music is one of the most impressive creative abilities that people possess. But what is going on inside their brain while they create?

The research

Dr Charles Limb looked at musician’s brain activity when improvising and creating music. FMRI scans indicated that areas in the frontal lobe related to self-expression increased in activity, and areas related to self-monitoring decreased in activity.

What does this mean?

What this means is that in order to improvise and be creative, the brain has to have this disconnect between self-expression and inhibition. This disconnect literally “sets the mind free”, reducing any inhibition from the logical areas, and allowing new creative thoughts to flow without being impeded. It is thought that it’s this that sets apart creative musicians from the not so creative.

Creativity of language

When it comes to language, the logical and grammatical aspects are processed in the left hemisphere of the brain, and the creative aspects of language, such as song lyrics, stories and poems are processed in the right hemisphere. It has been found that children that develop poor language skills later in life go onto to have enhanced language musicality, in terms of writing lyrics and creating stories using song.

This is another example of the reduction of left hemisphere processing freeing up space for right hemisphere to think creatively without the logical fog that usually clouds over the right side of the brain. In this example, the reduction in processing in the left hemisphere that creates the poor language skills, is the key that unlocks the right hemisphere to flow more freely, leading to more creative thoughts.


It is obvious that not everyone can paint the Mona Lisa or write classical music, and some people are just born with an innate ability to be creative. But the point is, the brain regions that are activated when creativity is flowing are present in everyone. Quite often, the logical side of people’s brain’s telling them they can’t be creative is exactly the thing stopping them. What does all this mean? Get out there and be creative, and do what you enjoy in whatever capacity you can. The research suggests that the brain processes behind creativity are present in everyone to some degree. Don’t let your own inhibitions stop the creative flow. Set your mind free.

Many thanks for taking the time to read my post. I hope you learned something,



Kandel, M. (Big Think). (2013, March 18). Eric Kandel: Creativity, Your Brain, and the Aha! Moment. Retrieved from

Limb, C. (TEDx Talks). (2010, December 10). TEDxMidAtlantic 2010 – Charles Limb – 11/5/10. Retrieved from


4 thoughts on “The psychology of creativity

    • Different parts of the brain are involved but it’s similar. A brain tailored towards physical movement and spatial awareness is likely to do well in different sports, as they require the same connections in the brain


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