Brain activity sensitive to visual congruency effects relates to divergent thinking

Darya L. Zabelina*, Lisa A. Hechtman, Arielle Saporta, Kristin Grunewald, Mark Beeman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The present study used functional magnetic resonance imagining (fMRI) to examine the role of focused attention in divergent thinking and real-life creativity. Participants completed a Navon task, on which the stimuli consisted of a large letter made up of the smaller version of the same (congruent), or a different (incongruent) letter. Participants were cued to identify a letter at either the local or at the global level. A smaller congruency effect – how much faster people responded on the congruent than on the incongruent trials – was an index of focused attention. Overall, larger behavioral congruency effect was accompanied with increased activation in the anterior superior temporal gyrus (aSTG), and with increased activation in the left precuneus. Individual differences in divergent thinking, however, were associated with smaller behavioral congruency effect, as well as with smaller right aSTG increase on the incongruent versus congruent targets, suggesting that people with better performance on the divergent thinking tests have more focused attention. Real-world creativity was not associated with the congruency effect, or with any of the regions implicated in the congruency effect. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103587
JournalBrain and cognition
StatePublished - Oct 2019


  • Attention
  • Creative achievement
  • Creativity
  • Divergent thinking
  • aSTG
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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