The development of creative cognition across adolescence: distinct trajectories for insight and divergent thinking


Sietske W. Kleibeuker, Brain and Development Lab, Department of Developmental Psychology, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333AK Leiden, The Netherlands; e-mail:


We examined developmental trajectories of creative cognition across adolescence. Participants (N = 98), divided into four age groups (12/13 yrs, 15/16 yrs, 18/19 yrs, and 25–30 yrs), were subjected to a battery of tasks gauging creative insight (visual; verbal) and divergent thinking (verbal; visuo-spatial). The two older age groups outperformed the two younger age groups on insight tasks. The 25–30-year-olds outperformed the two youngest age groups on the originality measure of verbal divergent thinking. No age-group differences were observed for verbal divergent thinking fluency and flexibility. On divergent thinking in the visuo-spatial domain, however, only 15/16-year-olds outperformed 12/13-year-olds; a model with peak performance for 15/16-years-old showed the best fit. The results for the different creativity processes are discussed in relation to cognitive and related neurobiological models. We conclude that mid-adolescence is a period of not only immaturities but also of creative potentials in the visuo-spatial domain, possibly related to developing control functions and explorative behavior.