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Verbal Creative Processing in Young and Older Adults

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0041825/00001

Material Information

Title: Verbal Creative Processing in Young and Older Adults
Physical Description: 1 online resource (92 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Leon, Susan
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2010

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: aging, associative, convergent, creativity, divergent, verbal
Communication Sciences and Disorders -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Communication Sciences and Disorders thesis, Ph.D.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: VERBAL CREATIVE PROCESSING IN YOUNG AND OLDER ADULTS The purpose of this study was to investigate creative verbal processing and assess how those processes were affected by healthy aging. It has been suggested that there are a number of processes involved in creative processing; these include divergent processing, convergent processing and associative processing. The processes are thought to rely on, or use similar resources to, different forms of cognitive processing. Divergent processing is thought to rely heavily on frontal functions such as disengagement, convergent processing on domain-specific knowledge and associative processing is thought to rely on knowledge of semantic relationships. Changes in brain structure and function occur with normal aging and while some elements of verbal creative processing may be negatively affected by these changes, other elements may remain unchanged or even improve in older adults. The participants used in this study consisted of thirty older adults and thirty younger adults. Testing consisted of a series of standard language and cognitive measures as well as a battery of tasks designed to assess the elements of verbal creative processing individually as well as in a creative production task. The creative production task required participants to make up short stories using sets of three semantically unrelated words. Results showed that older adults produced significantly more unique words that were not produced by any other participant in divergent processing tasks, and were significantly better on one of two convergent processing tasks. However, scores from independent ratings of stories showed that older adults performed significantly more poorly than younger adults at producing stories that were judged to be unique or original. We propose that the difference in findings is due to the ability to use previous knowledge or experience to produce unique responses on the divergent tasks, while the creative production task required the formation of novel semantic associations.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Susan Leon.
Thesis: Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2010.
Local: Adviser: Gonzales-Rothi, Leslie J.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2010
System ID: UFE0041825:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0041825/00001

Material Information

Title: Verbal Creative Processing in Young and Older Adults
Physical Description: 1 online resource (92 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Leon, Susan
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2010

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: aging, associative, convergent, creativity, divergent, verbal
Communication Sciences and Disorders -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Communication Sciences and Disorders thesis, Ph.D.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: VERBAL CREATIVE PROCESSING IN YOUNG AND OLDER ADULTS The purpose of this study was to investigate creative verbal processing and assess how those processes were affected by healthy aging. It has been suggested that there are a number of processes involved in creative processing; these include divergent processing, convergent processing and associative processing. The processes are thought to rely on, or use similar resources to, different forms of cognitive processing. Divergent processing is thought to rely heavily on frontal functions such as disengagement, convergent processing on domain-specific knowledge and associative processing is thought to rely on knowledge of semantic relationships. Changes in brain structure and function occur with normal aging and while some elements of verbal creative processing may be negatively affected by these changes, other elements may remain unchanged or even improve in older adults. The participants used in this study consisted of thirty older adults and thirty younger adults. Testing consisted of a series of standard language and cognitive measures as well as a battery of tasks designed to assess the elements of verbal creative processing individually as well as in a creative production task. The creative production task required participants to make up short stories using sets of three semantically unrelated words. Results showed that older adults produced significantly more unique words that were not produced by any other participant in divergent processing tasks, and were significantly better on one of two convergent processing tasks. However, scores from independent ratings of stories showed that older adults performed significantly more poorly than younger adults at producing stories that were judged to be unique or original. We propose that the difference in findings is due to the ability to use previous knowledge or experience to produce unique responses on the divergent tasks, while the creative production task required the formation of novel semantic associations.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Susan Leon.
Thesis: Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2010.
Local: Adviser: Gonzales-Rothi, Leslie J.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2010
System ID: UFE0041825:00001


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VERBAL CREATIVE PROCESSING IN YOUNG AND OLDER ADULTS


By

SUSAN A. LEON
















A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

2010































S2010 Susan A. Leon






























In memory of my father, James P. Bledsoe, Ph.D.
(July 9, 1927 April 3, 2010)









ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to thank my committee for the time and patience they have shown in

helping me to achieve this goal. I would also like to thank my family, especially my

daughter, Delia Leon. I was helped by many people throughout the course of this

project and I owe them all a huge debt of gratitude. This includes the students who

helped with data analysis, my friends who kept me going, and my story judges, who put

in many hours of reading. I sincerely thank you all.









TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

ACKNOW LEDGM ENTS .............. ............................ .. ......................................... 4

LIST O F TA BLES .......... ..... ..... ............................................................. ........ 7

A BSTRA CT ........... ........ ............................................................. ..... 8

CHAPTER

1 INTRODUCTION ........................ ... ............ ............ ........... 10

2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ............. .............................. ............... 13

Creativity .................... ....... ................................ 13
Theories of Creativity ................................................................................. 13
Elements of Creative Processing .......... ....... ......... .... ............... 15
Dom ain specific know ledge................................... ........................... 15
Divergent processing ........... ....... ..... .............. ....... .......... ...... 16
Convergent processing ................. ...................... ..... ............... 16
Associative processing ................. ......... ............. ..... .............. 17
Creative Language Use........................ ....................... .................... 18
Creativity and Aging................... .... ........ ... ............... ...........................19
Changes in Structure of the Brain with Normal Aging .................................. 20
Changes in Functions of the Brain with Normal Aging ................... ........ 23
Frontal lobe function .................................... .... ..... ............. .............. 23
Is divergent processing dependent upon the frontal lobes?.................... 26
Is cortical connectivity important to associative processing? ..................... 27
R ight hem isphere function .................................. ..................................... 28
M e m o ry ................ ................. .......................................... 2 9
L a n g u a g e u s e ............... .............................................................. 3 1
P u rpo se of the S tudy ............... ....................................................... 3 7
Hypotheses and Predictions ........................................... ........ ...... ................... 37
Hypothesis-Prediction 1: Divergent Verbal Processing ................................ 37
Hypothesis-Prediction 2: Convergent Verbal Processing ................................. 38
Hypothesis-Prediction 3: Divergent and Convergent Associative Verbal
Processing ...................... .. ......................................... 38
Hypothesis-Prediction 4: Creative Verbal Production..................................... 39
Hypothesis-Prediction 5: Associations between Type of Verbal Processing,
Creative Verbal Production and Standard Measures of Language and
Cognitive Ability......................................... .......... 39

3 METHODS........................................................ 40

Participants ........... ............... ............................. 40
Tests of Language and C ognitive A bility............................................ ... ................. 41









Testing Procedures .......................................................... 43
Experimental Tests of Verbal Creative Processing ............................. ............... 44
Hypothesis-Prediction1: Divergent Verbal Processing ...................... ........ 44
Hypothesis-Prediction 2: Convergent Verbal Processing ............ ................ 45
Hypothesis-Prediction 3: Divergent and Convergent Associative Verbal
Processing ............. ......... ..................... .......... .... ........... 46
Associative fluency .............. ..... .... ........... .............. 46
Remote associates test (RAT) ........ ....................... .............. 47
Hypothesis-Prediction 4: Creative Verbal Production................................... 47
Hypothesis-Prediction 5: Associations between Type of Verbal Processing,
Creative Verbal Production and Standard Measures of Language and
Cognitive Ability......................................... .......... 49

4 R E S U LT S .............................. ......... ...... .......... .................................... 5 2

Group Comparisons on Tests of Language and Cognitive Ability....................... 52
Group Comparisons on Experimental Tests of Creative Verbal Processing........... 53
Analyses for Hypothesis-Prediction 1: Differences between Younger and
Older Adults in a Divergent Verbal Processing Task (Unusual Uses Test)... 53
Analyses for Hypothesis-Prediction 2: Differences between Younger and
Older Adults in a Convergent Verbal Processing Task (Similarities
S ubtest) ................... .................. ....... ..... ......... ........ ................ 54
Analyses for Hypothesis-Prediction 3: Differences between Younger and
Older Adults in Associative Verbal Processing Tasks............... .............. 55
Analyses for Hypothesis-Prediction 4: Differences between Younger and
Older Adults in a Creative Verbal Production Task (Storytelling) .................. 57
Analyses for Hypothesis-Prediction 5: Associations between Type of Verbal
Processing, Creative Verbal Production and Standard Measures of
Language and C cognitive A ability ................................................ .. ................... 59

5 DISCUSSION .............. ...... ............ .. ... ..... ........... ......... 69

Divergent Processing........................................ .......... 70
C o nve rge nt P processing ............................................... .................. 72
Creative Verbal Production Short Stories .... .......................... .. ............... 73
Associations Between Types of Processing .............. .... ......... ........ 76
Conclusions ............... ...... ........ .......... .. ........ ... ...... ........ 77

APPENDIX

A STORYTELLING CATEGORY DEFINITIONS................................... ............... 80

B CRITERIA FOR STORY RATINGS .............................................. 81

LIST OF REFERENCES .......... .......... ............... .............. ...... ......... 83

B IO G RA P H ICA L S KETC H ........... ...................................................... ............... 92









LIST OF TABLES


Table page

3-1 Group means and standard deviations (SD) for demographic data and scores
on exclusionary tests ................................................ ......... ...... 51

4-1 Group means and standard deviations (SD) for language and cognitive
measures .......................................... ............ 62

4-2 Principal component analysis for cognitive and verbal factors ...................... 62

4-3 Group means and standard deviations (SD) for experimental creativity tests .... 62

4-4 Correlations between story telling scores and language measures.................... 63

4-5 Correlations between story telling scores and cognitive measures .................... 63

4-6 Correlations between creativity tests and language measures....................... 64

4-7 Correlations between creativity tests and cognitive measures ...................... 65

4-8 Correlations between story scores and divergent creativity tests....................... 66

4-9 Correlation between story scores and convergent creativity tests...................... 67

4-10 C orrelations am ong creativity tests.............................................. ... ... ............... 68









Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

VERBAL CREATIVE PROCESSING IN YOUNG AND OLDER ADULTS

By

Susan A. Leon

August 2010

Chair: Leslie J. Gonzalez Rothi
Major: Communication Sciences and Disorders

The purpose of this study was to investigate creative verbal processing and

assess how those processes were affected by healthy aging. It has been suggested that

there are a number of processes involved in creative processing; these include

divergent processing, convergent processing and associative processing. The

processes are thought to rely on, or use similar resources to, different forms of cognitive

processing. Divergent processing is thought to rely heavily on frontal functions such as

disengagement, convergent processing on domain-specific knowledge and associative

processing is thought to rely on knowledge of semantic relationships. Changes in brain

structure and function occur with normal aging and while some elements of verbal

creative processing may be negatively affected by these changes, other elements may

remain unchanged or even improve in older adults. The participants used in this study

consisted of thirty older adults and thirty younger adults. Testing consisted of a series of

standard language and cognitive measures as well as a battery of tasks designed to

assess the elements of verbal creative processing individually as well as in a creative

production task. The creative production task required participants to make up short

stories using sets of three semantically unrelated words. Results showed that older









adults produced significantly more unique words that were not produced by any other

participant in divergent processing tasks, and were significantly better on one of two

convergent processing tasks. However, scores from independent ratings of stories

showed that older adults performed significantly more poorly than younger adults at

producing stories that were judged to be unique or original. We propose that the

difference in findings is due to the ability to use previous knowledge or experience to

produce unique responses on the divergent tasks, while the creative production task

required the formation of novel semantic associations.









CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

In this study we propose to compare young and older adults' performance on a

battery of tasks of creative verbal processing to learn which elements of verbal creativity

are most affected by normal aging. Some elements of creative processing have been

shown to be affected by normal aging (e.g., divergent processing as shown by McCrae,

Arenberg, & Costa (1987)), but other elements have not yet been examined in healthy

aging adults. Most testing of creativity and aging to this point have focused on

nonverbal, spatial creativity tasks and these have shown some decrement with

increasing age. However, spatial abilities are more dependent upon right hemisphere

processes which have also been shown to suffer more than left hemisphere processes

with aging. Since language ability is thought to depend more heavily on left hemisphere

processes, it is unknown how verbal linguistic creativity will be affected by aging.

The ability to use language, and therefore the ability to use language creatively is

dependent upon millions of neural interconnections that form networks in the brain.

Beginning in childhood we build a store of semantic representations for the objects and

ideas in the world around us. For any object or concept we create a network that

contains information about how that object looks, smells, and tastes. We store

information about how that object makes us feel (for example, a snake may be

frightening) and information about experiences we have had with the object. We also

store the way the word that represents that object sounds when we hear it (i.e.,

phonological lexical representation), what movements we must make to say it ourselves

(i.e., phonetic representation), and which letters are used to represent it (i.e.,

orthographic lexical representation). These networks of information are known as









semantic memories and it is access and manipulation of these representations as well

as our knowledge of how language is structured (i.e., syntax) that is the basis for

human's linguistic ability.

The creative use of language depends upon the capacity to employ different forms

of cognitive processing. These include divergent processing, which is the ability to

produce a broad range of responses and convergent processing, the ability to produce

the one correct response. Associative processing is also important and involves the

ability to see connections between concepts. Associations may be previously learned or

be completely novel. It is known that some cognitive processes are affected by normal

aging as are some language functions. Cognitively, older adults have been shown to be

more prone to "rigidity", that is, they are more likely to produce responses from a single

set (even when changing the set is indicated), and more likely to produce perseverative

responses (i.e., responses that have already been produced) (Craik, Morris, Morris, &

Loewen, 1990). These deficits indicate a decrement in flexibility of thought, a capacity

intrinsic to divergent processing. In the area of linguistic ability, older adults have both

strengths and weaknesses. Older adults have been shown to have more difficulty

naming objects (Bowles & Poon, 1985) a task that requires convergent processing as

well as access to stored semantic and lexical representations. On the other hand, they

have been shown to generate richer narrative samples in some situations (James,

Burke, Austin, & Hulme, 1998; Pratt & Robbins, 1991) and to have larger and more

varied vocabularies (Verhaeghen, 2003), indicating a greater number of stored semantic

representations. These are factors that could affect older adults' ability to use language

creatively both negatively and positively.









Creativity, the production of novel and innovative ideas, in general requires the

manipulation of stored knowledge; verbal linguistic creativity requires the manipulation

of stored lexical-semantic representations. As indicated by previous work on cognitive

rigidity and normal aging, it may be that older adults will have more difficulty in

redefining the scope of representations as well as in making new connections or

associations between previously unrelated concepts/representations. Creativity involves

not only cognitive processes, but also motivation, and personality traits (Richards,

Kinney, Lunde, Benet, & Merzel, 1988). However, motivation and personality traits will

not be addressed in this study so that we can focus on the cognitive processes in more

detail.









CHAPTER 2
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE

Creativity

What is creativity? Creativity has been defined as the ability to understand,

develop and systematically express novel orderly relationships (Heilman, 2005).

Behavior is called creative if it results in a product that is novel, original, surprising, and

unique (Eysenck, 1995). However, in order for a product (i.e., a novel, a painting, an

invention) to be considered creative, it also must be appropriate. Unusual and surprising

behavior and cognition are often encountered in mental disorders such as

schizophrenia, however, the behavior of these individuals is not usually thought of as

creative since it is often not appropriate. Distinctions have been made in the history of

research investigating creativity between creative persons (e.g., Picasso, Mozart),

creative products (e.g., paintings, novels, scientific innovations), creative processes

(e.g., divergent processing, flexibility of thought), and creative environments. This study

focuses on creative processes and specifically how aging may affect these processes.

Creativity processing requires several types of thinking, as well as a certain amount of

knowledge in an area. For instance, an artist is not able to paint a masterwork before

learning the basic skills of painting.

Theories of Creativity

There have been many theories of creativity proposed in the last 100 years. They

have focused on different aspects of creativity including psychometric approaches (i.e.,

how to measure creativity) such those proposed by Guilford (1950) and Torrance

(1974). An associative model of creativity has also been developed (Mednick, 1962) as









well as a theory of creativity based on investment perspectives (Sternberg & Lubart,

1995). There have also been theories based on biological bases of creativity.

For at least the last hundred years, researchers have tried to understand what

enables the brain to be able to make the intuitive leaps necessary for creative

production. One aspect that has been explored in some detail is cortical arousal.

Cortical arousal can be considered as a continuum, ranging from deep sleep all the way

to extreme tension or anxiety. Arousal has been shown to be related to learning and

performance in that both are at optimal levels near the middle of the arousal continuum

(Hebb, 1955). Task complexity influences where on the continuum optimum

performance occurs. Simpler tasks are performed better at higher levels of arousal,

while more complex tasks are performed better at lower levels. The reason for this

difference in optimum arousal levels for task complexity lies in the type of response that

is most likely to be produced at different arousal levels. With high levels of cortical

arousal, responses are more likely to be highly frequent, stereotypical responses, which

is optimal for most simple tasks. However, with low levels of arousal it is more likely to

produce non-dominant or unusual responses which are often better suited to solving

more complex problems (Martindale, 1990; Simonton, 1980).

There have been examples throughout history of scientists being able to suddenly

solve a difficult problem when they relaxed and turned their attention away from the

problem at hand. This sudden ability to solve a difficult problem when in a state of

relative relaxation is due to the reduced level of cortical activation. High levels of cortical

arousal are brought on by stress or anxiety, and it has been suggested that it is in this

state of high arousal that we more often make conscious attempts at problem solving









but may be unable to produce a viable solution (Eysenck, 1995). Arousal may be

increased by a number of factors including stress, noise, temperature extremes, reward,

even the presence of others, and all of these factors have been shown to lower

creativity (reviewed in Eysenck, 1995). Another possible mechanism behind the ability

to make the unusual connections associated with creative thought is a reduction in

cognitive inhibition. This theory has centered on research done on individuals with

schizophrenia as well self-reported traits of highly creative individuals.

Elements of Creative Processing

At least four necessary elements of creative processing have been identified in

the literature. These include domain specific knowledge (Weisberg, 1999), divergent

and convergent processing (Guilford, 1950), and associative processing (Heilman,

2005; Mednick, 1962). A brief explanation of these elements and how they contribute to

creative processing are provided in turn.

Domain specific knowledge

In order to be creative in a domain, an individual must have some base of

knowledge to work from (Weisberg, 1999). It has been shown that creative thinking

builds on knowledge, and that highly creative people have acquired an extensive

amount of experience in their chosen field (Weisberg, 1999). This background

knowledge is often referred to as domain specific knowledge, and in the case of verbal

creativity, the domain specific knowledge required is language. Fortunately, most adult

humans are very proficient in using language, although vocabulary levels and

grammatical knowledge can vary according to education and experience.









Divergent processing

Divergent processing is the second critical element. Guilford (1950) proposed the

importance of this type of thinking to the process of creativity. Divergent processing

involves the ability to activate a broad array of novel acceptable responses or solutions

to given stimuli. Divergent processing requires disengagement, the ability to switch to a

new set or interpretation, as well as the production of alternate responses. A test often

used to assess Divergent processing in school age children is the Torrance Test of

Creative Thinking (TTCT) (Torrance, 1974). This test consists of both figural and verbal

prompts designed to elicit an array of responses. Unusual uses, also known as

Alternate Uses, (Guilford, Christensen, Merrifield & Wilson, 1978) is also commonly

used to assess Divergent processing as are verbal fluency tasks, wherein respondents

are asked to produce words as quickly and fluently as possible.

Convergent processing

The term "convergent processing" was also coined by Guilford (1950) and it

stands in opposition to divergent processing. Rather than producing a wide range of

answers, the goal in convergent processing is to produce the one correct response or

the best solution to a given problem. Convergent processing requires the ability to

synthesize concepts or put ideas together in a structured way. It emphasizes logic,

accuracy, and recognition of the familiar. When Guilford first introduced this term, it was

thought of as the antithesis of creative thought. However, it was eventually recognized

that it is also necessary to be able to evaluate the ideas generated in divergent

processing and recognize which may be most tenable (Cropley, 2006). As mentioned

earlier, a truly creative product is not just innovative, it must also be appropriate.









Convergent processing has been linked to knowledge since it often involves

manipulation of previously acquired information (Cropley, 2006). Convergent

processing, when focused on finding similarity or commonality in what appear be

unrelated words or concepts, is dependent on knowledge of semantic relationships. The

commonality between two concepts in any given instance may be previously learned

(e.g., tigers and lions are similar in that they are both cats) or novel. When relationships

are previously learned, making the connection is dependent simply on recalling pre-

existing knowledge. However, when relationships have not been learned, but need to be

formulated, the semantic representations need to be manipulated to discover how they

fit together.

Associative processing

Associative processing involves activating all the concepts or ideas that are

related in any way to another given concept or idea. Associative processing can be

used divergently or convergently. It may be that for creative production, it is the

connections that are available between semantic representations that are more

important than the number of semantic representations. Associative Fluency is an

example of an associative divergent task. The task requires respondents to generate all

the words they can think of that are associated with a target word. Word association

tasks can also require convergent processing, such as is used in the Remote

Associates Test (RAT) (Mednick, 1962). The RAT provides three words and asks the

respondent to provide a fourth associated word that links them all together. An example

of this would be the provision of the words "monkey, bite and widow" with the linking

word SPIDER.









Creative Language Use

Creativity is often assumed to be the province of a few "creative geniuses" such as

Einstein or Picasso. In fact, most of us are involved in some type of creative generativity

every day through the production of language. One of the fundamental aspects of

human language is its creative nature. An adult human being has the capacity to

produce and understand an infinite variety of sentences.

Noam Chomsky (1972) famously stated that all language use is creative -

meaning most propositional sentences uttered in a given day have not been uttered

before in exactly that form. We do not have exactly the same experiences or

interactions each day, nor the same thoughts or emotions about those experiences.

Consequently we are required each day to express novel thoughts or describe novel

experiences using language. We have to pick the right words to express the nuances of

the given experience, or perhaps compare the experience or thought to another to make

it better understood by the listener.

These comparisons of two objects or concepts are often made in everyday

language through the use of analogies or similes which are both examples of the

inherent ability of language to express novel associations. Associating between

concepts to form new mental connections or to understand connections requires

divergent processing. This is why the ability to produce unusual associates for given

words has often been used as a measure of creative ability. Mednick (1962) described

the concept of an associative gradient. An associative gradient ranks the frequency that

certain words are produced as an associate response to another word. For example, if

asked to give an associated word for "table", the words "cloth" or "chair" would be

frequent responses, whereas "plains" (which are flat like a table) would be a less









common associate. If a given individual responds to a provided word with mostly high

frequency responses from the same or similar semantic categories, it results in a steep

associative gradient. In contrast, if an individual responds with more infrequent

associates from disparate semantic categories, the result is a flatter associative

gradient. The steepness of the associative gradient of an individual has been found to

be highly correlated with rated or demonstrated creativity (MacKinnon, 1962). A flat

gradient is a sign that the individual is able to associate more freely between categories

and is able to depart from habitual thinking patterns and see alternative connections.

Creativity and Aging

Creativity has been associated with properties such as flexibility, openness,

autonomy and humor; these same properties are also associated with a "healthy

personality (Cropley, 2006). Unfortunately, creativity has also been reported and is

popularly believed to decline with advancing age. Studies examining the production of

creative products both in artistic and scientific realms have reported that creative

productivity usually peaks in the twenties or thirties and drops off after the forties

(Lehman, 1953, Simonton, 1988).

One of the determining factors that might influence the relationship between

creativity and age is how long a person lives, their life-span. Some of the individuals

examined in these studies may have died at a relatively young age. If they had lived

longer, perhaps they would have produced more works in their later years. In fact,

Lindauer (1993) reported that if you examine only the longer lived individuals in these

studies, the peak of creative production appears to be in the fifties. Another issue is

individual variability, there are numerous examples of great creative products being

produced by people who are in their ninth decade. Another issue concerns the focus of









the study on major creative products. There is a difference between major creativity

(such as works produced by Mozart) and the more humble everyday type of creativity.

Cropley (2006) reports that creativity and mental health are linked, at least at the

level of everyday creativity. Studies have linked creativity with mental flexibility and

adaptability; abilities that many theories of successful aging say are crucial (Flood &

Phillips, 2007). Practicing creativity has been shown to be beneficial to older adults;

there is a positive relationship between creativity and mental well-being, health, and life

satisfaction (Fisher & Specht, 1999; Hickson & Housely, 1997). It has been shown that

engaging in everyday creative activities such as writing poetry or journals (or painting,

acting, etc.) can improve mental health outcomes in areas such as self-esteem, coping

skills, anxiety level, life satisfaction, and depressive symptoms (Flood & Phillips, 2007).

While the benefits of creativity have been explored, there has been relatively little

exploration of how everyday creativity might be affected by aging. As mentioned earlier,

we know that there are factors that may impact creativity positively and negatively in

normal aging. Since it has also been shown that creative thinking abilities can be

stimulated and nourished through education and training in older adults (Flood &

Phillips, 2007) it is important to know what strengths or weaknesses might be present. A

greater understanding of what might inhibit creativity in older adults could be an

invaluable resource for designing training programs that foster creative thought.

However, in order to understand how creative processing may change with aging, it is

crucial to understand how the brain itself changes with aging.

Changes in Structure of the Brain with Normal Aging

The brain is a changing entity. From birth through young adulthood and into old

age, our brains go through a number of changes. In early life we acquire a large number









of connections between neurons, some of which are kept and others allowed to decay.

It was formerly believed that once we reached adulthood our brains were no longer

capable of changing. We know now that the brain is always capable of change in terms

of forming new connections (i.e., learning) although the ease and speed of this process

varies with age. Unfortunately, there are also changes that occur with normal aging that

are not so positive. Overall, the brain decreases in size and weight (Berg, 1948). There

is a small loss of neurons, about 10 percent of the total, particularly in supramodal

association cortices such as the dorsolateral frontal lobe and the inferior parietal lobe

(Pakkenberg, et al., 2003). Research has also shown that the frontal lobes are affected

by normal aging; in fact, age-related decline is more evident in frontal lobes than in any

other cortical area (Bryan & Luszcz, 2000). In a recent longitudinal study involving

successive MRI images over 4 years on healthy older adults, it was found that the

frontal lobes showed the steepest rate of atrophy (Resnick, et al., 2003). In addition,

even without the presence of disease processes such as seen in dementia, amyloid

plaques, neurofibrillary tangles, and a loss of dendritic branching may all be observed in

the brains of healthy older adults.

Another aspect of brain structure that is affected by aging is interneural

connectivity. There are two major components of the human central nervous system,

the gray matter which is made up mainly of neuronal cell bodies (i.e., the cortex) and

the white matter which is made up of the myelinated axons of these cells. There is some

local synaptic communication between neurons at the level of the cortex (i.e., gray

matter), but most long distance communication between neurons occurs in the white









matter connections. White matter connections carry information between neural cells

interhemispherically as well intrahemispherically (e.g., via the corpus collosum).

As mentioned earlier, there is some loss of gray matter (or neuron bodies) with

aging. However, this loss is not as substantial as the loss of white matter. Most of the

volume and weight loss seen in the elderly brain is through the loss of white matter and

subcortical neuronal loss (Guttmann et al., 1998). White matter loss has been found to

start at a later age than gray matter loss (40 versus about 20, respectively) (Ge,

Grossman, Babb, Rabin, Mannon, & Kolson, 2002), however, once the loss of white

matter begins in midlife, it is more rapid than the atrophy seen in gray matter. The signal

properties of white matter in normal aging have also been investigated using magnetic

resonance imaging (MRI) as they reflect possible changes in myelination which impacts

transmission of information between neuronal cells and networks. Signal intensities

implying changes in white matter connectivity have been shown in nondemented older

adults (Davatzikos & Resnick, 2002).

Connectivity has also been investigated using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) which

allows direct measurement of white matter microstructure (Pfefferbaum et al., 2000).

Since white matter is organized in fiber bundles, which restricts the motion of its water

particles, it is considered to be anisotropic since the amount of possible diffusion is

constrained. DTI can be used to measure the amount of anisotropy in white matter, and

several recent studies have investigated this in normally aging brains (Pfefferbaum et al,

2000; Sullivan et al., 2001). These studies have shown a significant decrease in

anisotropy in white matter fibers, particularly in the corpus collosum. This decrease









indicates a breakdown in the integrity of the white matter microstructure (Pfefferbaum et

al., 2000).

Changes in Functions of the Brain with Normal Aging

Frontal lobe function

Areas of the frontal lobe are responsible for what is often referred to as "executive

functions." Executive functions are cognitive processes that control and integrate other

cognitive activities, thereby allowing an individual to engage in independent goal-

directed behavior. Planning, internal ordering, monitoring, regulating, and motivating

have all been attributed to prefrontal cortex. Executive functioning involves the ability to

conceptualize a plan of action, to order and maintain a plan of action, to inhibit

unwanted behavior, and to assess the ongoing plan and modify if necessary.

Commonly observed differences in cognitive and memory performance in older

adults may be based in declines in executive functioning processes (e.g., a decline in

the ability to inhibit irrelevant information as suggested by Hasher et al. (2001)).

However, age related decline is milder than what is seen in executive dysfunction

following frontal lobe damage (Bryan & Luszcz, 2000) and as such may be harder to

detect using standardized tests that have were developed for use with brain damaged

populations. Executive function tasks may also be stressful and unpleasant for older

adults, particularly tasks such as the Wisconsin Card Sorting Task (WCST) which is

ambiguous and whose rules change with no warning (Bryan & Luszcz, 2000).

A common deficit seen when testing executive processing in older adults is

perseveration. Perseveration is the repetition of a previous response when presented

with new stimuli, and is thought to result from an inability to switch the set of

responding, a state known also known as "stuck-in-set". This may occur when a task









requires switching fluidly between one or more sets of responses as has been shown on

studies examining older adults' performance on the WCST (Craik et al., 1990). The

STROOP test (Ridely, 1935) wherein respondents are asked to read the names of color

words printed in a contrasting color to the name, is also used to assess ability to

disengage from a previous response or from a prepotent response.

Another method commonly used to assess executive functioning is fluency tasks.

Fluency tasks may be verbal or nonverbal and require the respondent to generate

unique exemplars quickly. Verbal fluency tasks are an indication of an individual's

speed and ease of access to stored lexical semantic representations, and also measure

initiation (how quickly an individual can respond to the request to generate). Successful

performance on fluency tasks is thought to rely on strategic search processes, and the

use of strategies reflects executive processing (Bryan & Luszcz, 2000). A widely used

verbal fluency task is the Controlled Word Association (COWA) (Benton & Hamsher,

1976). The COWA requires the respondent to generate words beginning with specific

letters (e.g., "F, A, S", often called the FAS test for this reason), but not to use proper

names or derivatives of previously used words. Performance on this task is measured

by tallying the total number of acceptable words, number of perseverations, and number

of responses that break rules (i.e., proper names or derivatives of previous responses).

This type of task is also known as letter or phonemic fluency.

There are few if any cognitive activities that do not involve some level of activity in

the frontal, parietal and temporal lobes. When someone speaks about a frontal lobe

function, they are referring to the specific role that the frontal lobes are contributing to

this cognitive activity. For example, the COWA is often used clinically to learn if a









patient has a defect in their left frontal lobe (Lezak, 1995). It is likely that a person who

had suffered great damage to the temporal and your parietal lobes would not perform

well on this task. However, if you demonstrate that the critical functions mediated by the

parietal and temporal lobes are intact (e.g., naming is normal) and a person still

performs poorly on the COWA, then it is an indication of frontal dysfunction.

Phonemic fluency is known to be sensitive to frontal lobe damage. However, this

test may not be as sensitive to declines in frontal lobe functions seen in normal aging.

Only small differences have been found, indicating that phonemic fluency is maintained

relatively well in normal aging (Bryan & Luszcz, 2000). Phillips (1997) suggested that

the phonemic fluency task is not novel enough, that older adults may be aided in their

performance on this task by experience with similar strategies used in completing

crossword puzzles or other word games. In contrast, age-related declines have been

reported in normally aging adults in categorical, or semantic, fluency tasks (Kozora &

Cullum, 1995; Troyer, Moscovitch, & Winocur, 1997). Semantic fluency requires the

respondent to generate words within a category; the category of animals is commonly

used. Design fluency is a nonverbal task that requires respondents to generate as many

designs as possible within a time limit. It has also not been shown to be very sensitive

to age differences (Bryan & Luszcz, 2000).

It has also been shown that older adults have a greater decline in "fluid"

intelligence measures than in "crystallized" intelligence measures. Crystallized

intelligence is the knowledge and skills obtained over a lifetime of learning and

experience. Crystallized intelligence can continue to increase during a person's life as

they continue to learn and experience. For example, vocabulary knowledge is known to









increase with age (Verhaeghen, 2003). Fluid intelligence, on the other hand, involves

problem solving, pattern recognition and the ability to manipulate information. A test

commonly used to assess fluid intelligence is the performance measures of the

Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) including picture completion and picture

arrangement tasks. These fluid intelligence measures show more of a decline with

aging than do the measures assessing crystallized intelligence (Ryan, Sattler, & Lopez,

2000).

Is divergent processing dependent upon the frontal lobes?

Lesion studies as well as functional imaging studies suggest that the frontal lobes

are important for divergent processing (Damasio & Anderson, 2003). Divergent

processing requires two components, disengagement and the formulation of alternate

responses or solutions. Disengagement requires the ability to switch sets, to shift from a

response set that has not been fruitful, or is no longer as fruitful, to an alternate

response set, or to disengage from a more common interpretation of a response. The

WCST (Craik et al., 1990) is a commonly used assessment of disengagement, and

regional blood flow studies have shown increased blood flow in the frontal lobe when

normal subjects are given this test (Weinberger, Berman, & Zec, 1986). The second

component of divergent processing is the production of alternate responses.

Neuroimaging studies suggest that the frontal lobes are also crucially involved in this

step; when researchers compared individuals who had scored either high or low on

creative indexes, the highly creative individuals were shown to have greater frontal

activation when asked to provide alternate uses for a common object than were the

individuals with low creativity (Carlsson, Wendt, Risberg, 2000).









The Unusual Uses test (Guilford, 1978) been also used to assess Divergent

processing in individuals with frontal lobe injuries. This task is from a battery of

measures of creativity created by Guilford (Guilford et al., 1978). This task is assumed

to test flexibility of thought and creativity (Lezak, 1995). Respondents are asked to

name all the alternate uses they can think of for a common object. Butler, Rorsman, Hill

& Tuma (1993) used this task to assess individuals with frontal lobe tumors and found

this task to be more sensitive to frontal lobe dysfunction than COWA. They suggested

that the Unusual Uses task may involve more complex fluency processes since it

requires the respondent to access associations between semantic representations.

Bryan & Luszcz (2000) also reported a greater correlation between advancing age and

the Uses tests than between age and phonemic fluency. They also report that

differences in this task have not been widely examined. McCrae and colleagues also

found declines in divergent processing tasks with aging, however the tasks they used

focused on speed of processing rather than originality (McCrae et al., 1987).

Is cortical connectivity important to associative processing?

Obviously, a loss of white matter can affect the connectivity of the brain as a

whole. Connectivity enables the spread of activation from one neural network to another

and thus from one activated concept to another. This spread enables a greater range of

concepts being activated and therefore a broader range of response possibilities. There

is some empirical support for the idea that connectivity of different networks is involved

in creative associative processing. Petsche (1996) had normal subjects create a short

story using 10 associated words. The results of the study showed that there was an

anatomically distributed coherence of EEG oscillations during performance of this task.

Connectivity between the two hemispheres may also play a crucial role in creativity as









studies have shown increased right hemisphere activity when subjects are asked to

make novel or unusual associations (Beeman, 1998; Bekhtereva, Starchenko,

Klyucharev, Vorobev, Pakhomov, & Medvedev, 2000; Howard-Jones, Blakemeore,

Samuel, Summers, & Claxton, 2005).

Right hemisphere function

The right hemisphere may play a crucial role in creativity. Creativity often requires

the use of skills and knowledge mediated by both the right and left hemispheres

(Heilman, Nadeau, & Beversdorf, 2003) meaning that interhemispheric communication

might be as important for creativity as communication within the hemisphere. In fact,

disconnection of the hemispheres such as occurs in commissurotomy, has been shown

to negatively affect creative ability as measured by performance on the Rorschach test

(Lewis, 1979). The right hemisphere is involved in global processing, which is important

for being able to see how disparate objects or concepts are related.

The right hemisphere is also the main source of visuospatial processing. It has

been hypothesized that the right hemisphere shows a greater decline in function with

aging than does the left hemisphere (Albert & Moss, 1988; Brown & Jaffe, 1975).

Studies investigating this hypothesis compared older adults' performance on tasks

reliant on either right hemisphere dominant skills such as visuospatial ability or left

hemisphere dominant skills such as language processing ability. Goldstein & Shelley

(1981) found that older adults were less impaired in verbal processing skills as did Klisz

(1978) and Koss and colleagues (1991). However other researchers (e.g., Libon,

Glosser, Malamut, Kaplan, Goldberg, Swenson, & Prouty Sands, 1994) have suggested

that task complexity may not have been well controlled in these studies, and it may be a

deficit in executive functioning that underlies the visuospatial deficit. It has also been









posited that only certain areas of the right hemisphere are more affected by normal

aging and that is why results of studies have been inconsistent (Gerhardstein, Peterson,

Rapcsak, 1998).

Memory

There are many changes that occur in cognitive processes with normal aging.

Some cognitive processes appear to be untouched by aging while others show clear

declines. Most deficits in aging can be traced to tasks that require the formation of new

memories, whereas tasks that rely on familiar or pre-existing memories may remain

intact.

There have been several conventions used to refer to different types of memory.

One of the first distinctions was between long and short term memory (Atkinson &

Shiffrin, 1968). These distinctions were later amended to include subtypes of both long

and short term memory types (Schacter & Tulving, 1994). Long term memories can be

either declarative (i.e., episodic, autobiographical, and semantic) or non-declarative

(i.e., procedural). Episodic memory refers to information that was acquired in a

particular place at a particular time (Tulving, 1972). Autobiographical refers to memory

for the history of one's own life. Semantic memory consists of all the facts we know

about the world around us (e.g., the capital of Florida is Tallahassee and that an orange

is a fruit), as well as the meanings of words (Tulving, 1972). The semantic memory for

words and their meanings is often referred to as the semantic system and will be

discussed in more detail in a following section ("Language use"). Semantic memory has

no reference to temporal or spatial context, meaning that semantic memories are not

"tagged" to tell us where or when we learned the information. It is episodic memory that









contains the traces of experienced events or episodes (Wheeler, Stuss & Tulving,

1997).

Studies have shown that the type of long term memory most often seen to be

impaired in aging is episodic memory (Hoyer & Verhaeghen, 2006; Light & Burke,

1988). In contrast, autobiographical memory is largely intact. The evidence for the

impact of aging on semantic memory is more mixed. For the most part, studies have

shown that the structure of semantic memory is intact (see for example, Park et al.,

2002). However, accessing or retrieving those memories can be problematic for older

adults (Mackay & Burke, 1990). Procedural memory is also largely unimpaired by aging

(Hoyer & Verhaeghen, 2006). It is important not to confuse memory with learning

however. Acquiring new semantic or procedural memories may take longer for older

adults and require more repetition when compared to younger adults learning the same

information.

Working memory is a type of short term memory that entails not only retention but

also manipulation or transformation of the recalled information (Keefover, 1998).

Working memory is often assessed through the use of "maintenance plus processing"

tasks, such as the reading span test. In the reading span test, an individual reads a

sentence and then must recall the final word while also paying attention to the meaning

of the sentence as comprehension is also assessed. Reading span is determined by

how many sentences the individual can read and recall the final words for while also

showing comprehension of the meanings. Reading span has been shown to decrease

with age (Norman, Kemper, & Kynette, 1992), as have other tests of working memory

ability in older adults (Dobbs & Rule, 1989). Working memory involves functions









controlled by the frontal regions of the brain which are shown to be preferentially

affected by aging (Bryan & Luszcz, 2000), and in fact is the executive component of

working memory tasks (i.e., processing) rather than the short term maintenance

component that is more affected by aging (Gick, Craik, & Morris, 1988).

Language use

For many years it was thought that verbal ability was relatively spared by normal

aging, an impression fostered by studies that showed declines with aging on

performance subtests of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scales (WAIS) (Wechsler,

1981), but no significant decline with aging on the verbal subtests. In fact, many aspects

of language do remain relatively untouched by age, but some do not. Age related

changes in language use are important because domain-specific knowledge is a

prerequisite for creativity (Weisberg, 1999) and in the case of verbal creativity, language

proficiency is the required domain-specific knowledge.

There are many aspects involved in proficient language use. First, we must be

able to comprehend language in order to use it. Comprehension involves the ability to

decipher the stream of language and parse it into the sounds that constitute the words

of a given language. We then have to be able to retrieve the meaning of the words from

semantic memory. The stored representations of words and their meanings constitute

the semantic system. We also need to be able to decode the syntactic structure of the

sentence or phrase the words are embedded in, in order to make sense of the spoken

message as a whole. This process is similar for written language but requires the

decoding of orthographic symbols used to denote sounds that make up words. Studies

with older adults have found that basic language comprehension is largely untouched

by normal aging (Shadden, 1997). If we take some amount of normal hearing loss into









account, older adults are able to parse sounds into words as well as younger adults and

grammaticality judgment tasks have shown us that older adults are just as good as

younger adults at decoding syntactic structures, although there is some decline seen in

the complexity of grammatical structures used by older adults (Kemper, 1987).

While basic comprehension and semantic memory have been shown in previous

studies to be mostly intact, aspects of language production have been shown to be

affected by normal aging. One of the most commonly reported language deficits in

aging is word retrieval. This deficit has been demonstrated by slower and less accurate

performance by older adults in confrontation naming tasks both of pictures and

definitions (Bowles & Poon, 1985). It is also one of the most commonly reported deficits

by older adults themselves. Older adults are also more likely to experience tip-of-the-

tongue states (Burke, Worthley, & Martin, 1988). Older adults also have shown

decreases in verbal fluency in category tasks (e.g., name all the animals you can think

of...) (Kozora & Cullum, 1995; Troyer, Moscovitch, & Winocur, 1997). It has been

suggested that it is access to the semantic representations and to the phonological

forms of the words that causes older adults' difficulty with naming and verbal fluency

rather than loss of the representations themselves (Mackay & Burke, 1990; Salthouse,

1988).

The results of studies investigating the semantic system have indicated that the

representations of words and their meanings are largely intact in aging. Vocabulary

tests assess the range of the semantic system, and studies have shown that vocabulary

does not diminish with age, but in fact, stays stable or increases (Verhaeghen, 2003).

Researchers have also examined the stability of the semantic system through semantic









priming effects testing. Semantic priming tests measure the reduction in time required to

identify a word when it follows a related word (i.e., if "lion" is followed by the word

"tiger", tiger will be identified more quickly as a real word than if it followed an unrelated

word such as "dishwasher"). This effect is attributed to activation of networks that

encode semantically related words. There has been found to be no significant difference

in performance on this type of task between young and older adults (Howard & Burke,

1984). Mediated semantic priming has also been investigated wherein the first and

second words are related through a third unstated word (e.g., "stripes" followed by "lion"

results in faster identification of lion through the related but unstated word "tiger"). This

type of priming is also largely unaffected by aging (Bennett & McEvoy, 1999).

Another method that can be used to investigate the semantic system is word

association tasks. The associative connections that one word has to other words form a

part of the structure of a representation for that word. It may be that semantic

representations as a whole are largely available in normal aging, but that the structure

of the representations has changed or. Connections between words could be lost or

altered, therefore affecting the organization of the semantic system as a whole (Kausler,

1994). Confrontation naming tasks would not necessarily show if a change in the

organization of the semantic system occurred with aging, whereas association tasks

might. There have been some studies investigating this possibility which have looked at

three main variables of the associates produced: overall number of responses,

frequency or commonness of the response, and variability in response over different

administration episodes. Researchers have also compared the classes of associations

provided. A paradigmatic association is from the same grammatical class as the cue









word, for example, a paradigmatic associate for "mountain" would be "hill". A

syntagmatic associate is from a different grammatical class and could co-occur in a

sentence with the cue word. An example of this kind of associate would be the word

"climb" for the cue word "mountain" (Kausler, 1994).

Some early studies reported differences between young and older adults

performance (Perlmutter, 1979; Riegel & Birren, 1966) on all of the above variables, but

later studies did not find strong age differences and suggested that earlier findings were

linked more to vocabulary level than to true differences with increasing age (Burke &

Peters, 1986, Lovelace & Cooley, 1982). Additionally, Lovelace and Cooley (1982)

found that high vocabulary scores in both young and older adults were associated with

producing more common (i.e., more frequent) responses on word association tasks.

This finding is in line with Howard (1980) who examined variability of responses when

older adults generated properties of a stimulus word. Older adults produced fewer

unique responses, that is, responses that were generated by only one participant. Hirsh

and Tree (2001) in a study attempting to provide word association norms reported a

similar finding; younger adults produced a wider variety of responses, more unique

responses, and more instances of providing non-dominant responses.

While the findings of Burke and Peters (1986) as well as Lovelace and Cooley

(1982) were taken by the authors to indicate that the organization of the semantic

system remains unchanged by aging, the findings that older adults produce less unique

or creative responses may indicate that their associative horizons are narrowed, such

that fewer associates for a given word are available. None of the above studies asked

the participants to provide more than 4-5 associates for any word. It is unknown whether









any differences between young and older adults would emerge in this kind of

association task.

Another aspect of language use that is relevant to the current study is the

production of discourse. Discourse is considered to be any unit of language larger than

a single word (Myers, 1999), and as such there are many types of discourse.

Discussing the effects of age on all types of discourse would be beyond the realm of

this study and so we will focus here on the studies that investigated narrative discourse.

Narrative discourse involves the telling of some kind of story. Most studies to this

point have used picture description tasks, either of single pictures or a series of pictures

showing an event unfolding (i.e., a "cartoon"), or have used story re-telling or the telling

of stories from the participant's own life (i.e., autobiographical stories). There are

several aspects of narrative that can be investigated. These include number of words

used, content informativeness, cohesion of the story, and overall quality. There have

been a number of studies investigating whether these aspects of narrative discourse are

different in young and older adults and the results have not always agreed.

Most studies looking at number of words have found that younger and older adults

produce similar amounts of words in non-personal story telling (i.e., picture or cartoon

description) (Beaudreau, Storandt, Strube, 2006; Cooper, 1990; James et al., 1998).

However, differences in number of words used have been found to be significantly

greater in older adults when telling personal stories (i.e., stories from the adults' own

lives). Education level, more than age, has been shown to be related to number of

words produced in a discourse, with lower education levels resulting in lower word

counts (Mackenzie, 2000).









In contrast, age differences have been found in studies investigating the content of

discourse. Content is a measure of informative of the discourse, that is, how much

appropriate and relevant information is conveyed by what is said. In one study, older

adults were found to produce significantly more irrelevant content when answering

questions about their own lives (Glosser & Deser, 1992). Other studies have found

similar results, that older adults are more likely to produce a larger proportion of

irrelevant utterances than do younger adults in spontaneous speech and when talking

about their own lives (Arbuckle & Gold, 1993; James et al., 1998; Pushkar, Basevitz,

Arbuckle, Nohara-LeCalir, Lapidus, & Peled, 2000). However, older adults do not

produce any more irrelevant information than do younger adults in non-personal

discourse such as story description (James et al., 1998).

Studies investigating cohesion of narratives have also found differences. Cohesion

is a measure of how well utterances in a given discourse are linked. Cohesion is

maintained through appropriate use of pronouns, conjunctions, and determiners to

substitute for or refer back to another noun. It has been shown that older adults make

more errors of reference in story re-telling tasks (Pratt, Boyes, Robins, & Manchester,

1989) and in telling and understanding stories (Kemper, Rash, Kinnette & Norman,

1990). Older adults also have more difficulty with appropriate use of conjunctive

cohesions (Juncos-Rabadan, 1996). Mackenzie (2000) found that older adults had more

difficulty with appropriate topic maintenance in spontaneous speech, but this effect was

not found when older adults were asked to describe pictures.

Quality of discourse has also been investigated, but as this is a largely subjective

measure, the findings in this area are not as clear-cut. James and colleagues (1998)









reported that older adults produced more irrelevant utterances in recorded discourse

about personal topics; however, these same samples of discourse were rated as being

more interesting than younger adults recorded personal discourses. Pratt & Robins

(1991) report a similar finding, in that older adults were rated as producing a higher

quality of narrative discourse. There is very little literature currently on age differences in

newly created stories. It is possible that the same age differences would be seen as

have been reported for story telling based on cartoon picture stimuli (e.g., Juncos-

Rabadan, 2005), however, that remains to be shown.

Purpose of the Study

With aging there are changes of the brain and brain functions. Whereas some

functions have been reported to improve with aging (e.g., vocabulary) others have been

reported to diminish (e.g., working memory). In addition, there is a loss of white matter

connections and a decrease in some functions mediated by the frontal lobes.

Connectivity, both interhemispheric and intrahemispheric, and frontal lobe functions

have been shown to be linked to creative processing. The objective of this study was to

investigate the relationship between normal aging and different elements of creative

verbal processing, including attempting to learn whether aging affects some types of

processing more strongly than others. This study will include tasks to assess each of

the elements mentioned above, to learn how each contributes to verbal creative ability

in older adults.

Hypotheses and Predictions

Hypothesis-Prediction 1: Divergent Verbal Processing

Previous studies have shown that older adults have a larger vocabulary than

younger adults when education level is controlled. Because of this previous finding and









the fact that learning new words does not require disengagement or activation of large

distributed networks, older adults (OAs) in our sample should perform as well or better

on a test of vocabulary. However, unlike vocabulary, divergent processing is heavily

dependent on frontal-executive functions such as disengagement, and OAs have been

shown to be less proficient in many tasks that are dependent on frontal-executive

functions. Thus, if vocabulary level is controlled, we predicted that OAs performance on

a task requiring divergent verbal processing would be worse than YAs.

Hypothesis-Prediction 2: Convergent Verbal Processing

Convergent verbal processing, finding similarity or commonality in words or

concepts, is dependent on knowledge of semantic relationships. This knowledge is

often learned and thus might improve with healthy aging. However, when relationships

have not been learned, but need to be formulated, we predicted that OAs performance

would be poorer than YAs.

Hypothesis-Prediction 3: Divergent and Convergent Associative Verbal
Processing

As discussed above, Divergent processing, or finding alternative solutions, is in

part dependent upon activating a large array of semantic-conceptual networks that have

some form of association. Convergent processing also requires the activation of lexical-

semantic representations as well as the conceptual network that allows a person to

discern the relationship between these lexical-semantic representations. Since normal

aging affects cortical connectivity and connectivity is required for activation of a wide

variety of semantic networks, we predicted that OAs would perform more poorly on

associative tasks than YAs.









Hypothesis-Prediction 4: Creative Verbal Production

OAs have been shown in previous studies (e.g., James et al., 1998; Pratt &

Robins, 1991) to produce narratives that were rated as being more interesting than

those produced by YAs. Results such as these could suggest that OAs would produce

stories that are more creative than YAs. However, the storytelling task used in this study

is constrained in that it requires the participant to use three semantically unrelated

words in the produced story. This will require associative processing of novel

relationships as well as divergent and convergent processing. Associative processing is

dependent on cortical connectivity which is affected by aging, and divergent processing

is dependent on frontal function which has also been shown to be affected by aging.

Therefore, for the storytelling task used in this study, we predicted that OAs would have

lower scores on a task of constrained story telling than YAs.

Hypothesis-Prediction 5: Associations between Type of Verbal Processing,
Creative Verbal Production and Standard Measures of Language and Cognitive
Ability

Many of the tests used to investigate creative processing in this study have not

been investigated in terms of their relationship to aging or in relation to standard

cognitive measures. For this reason we were interested in how the measures would

correlate with each other as well as with standard cognitive measures. We predicted

that the convergent measures would correlate with measures of lexical-semantic

knowledge and that divergent tasks would correlate with measures of frontal function or

working memory. Furthermore, we predicted that measures of uniqueness in divergent

tasks would correlate with production of more highly creative stories in the constrained

story production task.









CHAPTER 3
METHODS

Participants

The participants for this study were 30 healthy younger adults (12 males, 18

females) and 30 healthy older adults (8 males, 22 females). They ranged in age from

18-30 years for younger adults and 65-80 years for older adults. Healthy younger adult

participants were recruited from undergraduate classes at the University of Florida as

well as from the community at large. Healthy older adult participants were recruited via

presentations at community social events and local retirement communities as well as

responses from flyer postings.

The sample size was based on results of a prospective power analysis assuming a

level of significance of 0.05, and a sample size of 30 in each group, which showed that

we would be able to detect an effect size of .74 with power above .80. Cohen (1992)

regards 0.2 as indicative of a small effect, 0.5 a moderate and 0.8 a large effect size.

Therefore, with a total sample of 60 participants, we would be able to detect a moderate

to large effect in the data.

All participants were right handed, (assessed using the Benton Handedness

Questionnaire), native speakers of English with at least 12 years of education, who

were willing to participate and provided informed consent. Individuals with a history of

traumatic brain injury, stroke or any neurological diseases were not included in this

study due to differences in cognitive and language functioning that can result.

Individuals with a reported history of developmental disorders such as language

learning disorders (e.g., dyslexia) or attentional deficit disorder were not included in the

study. Persons with chronic medical illnesses that can result in vital organ failure were









also not included (e.g., hepatic, renal, congestive heart failure, as well as chronic

obstructive pulmonary disease). Depressive symptoms were screened for using the

Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) (Beck, 1987), as depression can also affect cognitive

functioning. The BDI is a 21-item scale with scores ranging from 0 (absent) to 3 (severe)

for all items. Score is the sum of all items, with a score above 11 being a guideline for

presence of depression (Gallagher, Breckenridge, Steinmetz, & Thompson, 1983).

None of our older or younger participants scored above 11. Healthy older adult

participants were given the Mini-Mental Status Exam (MMSE) (Cockrell & Folstein,

1988) to screen for cognitive impairments. One possible participant was excluded from

the study after scoring below the range of normal (>26). All other older adults were in

the range of normal. Healthy younger participants were not given the MMSE as it was

not considered necessary to rule out age-related cognitive impairment in that group.

Means and standard deviations for demographic data as well as scores on exclusionary

tests can be found in Table 3-1.

Tests of Language and Cognitive Ability

Creativity is dependent upon a number of cognitive functions including domain

specific knowledge (e.g., lexical-semantic knowledge), working memory, and executive

functions. These functions were assessed before beginning the experimental tasks.

Elements of the cognitive testing were administered in the order in which they are

described below.

Lexical-semantic knowledge was assessed using two vocabulary tests. One was

the WAIS-R vocabulary test which can be used as an indicator of verbal IQ. The other,

a word retrieval task was a measure of descriptive auditory naming based on normative

data found in the work of Hammeke and colleagues (2005). We included this measure









of word retrieval because we were interested in the participant's ability to retrieve a

semantic representation from a verbal description rather than a picture because we

wanted to assess participant's ability to retrieve words in the same modality (i.e., verbal)

that we were investigating. The measure consisted of 40 words, both living and

nonliving and was presented in auditory form. The participant heard a description of a

common animal or object (e.g., "an animal that makes honey") and was given time to

speak the answer "bee".

Working memory was assessed using an operation span (OSPAN) task (Turner &

Engle, 1989). OSPAN is a dual-task paradigm which involves math and memory

processing. Participants were asked to read and verify a simple math problem (e.g., 14 /

7 = 2, true or 15 / 5 = 2, false) then were shown a word (e.g., bottle). The participants

were asked to remember the words they were shown following the math problem. The

number of words an individual was able to remember after being shown a series of

problems and words was the OSPAN score.

Creative processing requires divergent processing, and divergent processing is

thought to rely on two components, disengagement and the formulation of alternate

responses or solutions. Disengagement requires the ability to switch sets, to shift from

one response set to an alternate response set. We assessed disengagement in a

verbally based task, the STROOP Neuropsychological Screening Test (SNST)

(Trenerry, Crosson, DeBoe, & Leber, 1989). This test has two tasks. The first required

the participant to read a list of words consisting of the names of colors written in a

different color than the name (e.g., the word "blue" written in red ink). The participant

was asked to read the words aloud. In the second task the participant was given a









similar list of words (i.e., color names written in different colors than the name) and

asked to say aloud the color the word was printed in (i.e., in example above, participant

needed to respond with the word "red" which described the ink color, rather than the

word "blue"). This required the participant to disengage from the prepotent response

which is to read the word, and instead provide an aspect of the appearance of the word.

The difference in time to complete the first task and to complete the second task

(measured in seconds) was used as the score for this test.

Participants were also asked to fill out a short self-report questionnaire about

creativity. The Scale of Creative Attributes and Behavior (SCAB) (Kelly, 2004) is a 20-

item inventory that asks participants to rate their propensity to be involved in creative

thinking or activities. Examples of items include, "I enjoy creating new things", and "I

have an ability to find the hidden potential of ideas that others often can't see". Each of

the 20 items on the questionnaire is rated on a 7-point scale ranging from "strongly

agree" to "strongly disagree".

Testing Procedures

All participants were assessed in a quiet room either at the University of Florida or

in their homes. All participants were consented using an IRB approved Informed

Consent Form prior to initiation of any testing. Testing started with the depression scale

and MMSE for older adults. If scores on these tests were not exclusionary, testing

proceeded to the cognitive measures. The order of administration of the Unusual Uses,

Associative Fluency, WAIS-R Similarities, RAT, and the Storytelling task were

randomized for each participant.









Experimental Tests of Verbal Creative Processing

Hypothesis-Prediction1: Divergent Verbal Processing

Divergent verbal processing has been reported to be associated with frontal

activation (Heilman et al., 2003). The measure used to asses verbal divergent

processing in this study was the Unusual Uses test (Guilford, 1978), which has been

found to be sensitive to frontal lobe dysfunction in individuals with frontal tumors (Butler

et al., 1993). This task was intended to assess flexibility of thought and divergent

processing. The participants were asked to list as many alternate or unusual uses as

they could imagine for five common objects: brick, pencil, paperclip, toothpick, and

sheet of paper. Since it is known that frontal lobe deficits are common in normal aging,

we assessed whether divergent processing as evidenced by performance on the

Unusual Uses Test was affected by age. The Unusual Uses test had two outcomes:

Fluency outcome/response variable is numerical (1-30+)
Uniqueness outcome/response variable is numerical (.0001 1)

Uniqueness was calculated by determining a given responses' frequency of

occurrence within the entire corpus of responses from all 60 participants. A response

with a relatively high number of occurrences in the list of all responses therefore had a

lower value (e.g., .032), whereas a more unique response had a higher value (e.g., .75).

A response that occurred only once had a value of 1.

A multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) with age group (young vs. old) as a

between-subjects variable and total fluency and mean uniqueness as the dependent

variables was used to compare performance on the Unusual Uses Test. A multivariate

analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) with age group (young vs. old) as a between-

subjects variable and total fluency and mean uniqueness as the dependent variables









with the cognitive factor and verbal factor as covariates was used to compare

performance controlling for the level of cognitive and verbal skill.

Hypothesis-Prediction 2: Convergent Verbal Processing

Convergent processing requires the ability to find the one correct answer or the

best possible answer. Convergent verbal processing, finding similarity or commonality in

words or concepts, is dependent on knowledge of semantic relationships. If education

level is controlled, older adults have been shown to have larger vocabularies on

average than younger adults, indicating a greater number of semantic representations

which could enhance performance on a verbally based convergent task. However, older

adults have also been shown to have deficits in accessing semantic representations

which, together with reported decreases in cortical connectivity, may adversely affect

performance on a convergent verbal processing task.

The task used to investigate this question in our study was the WAIS-R similarities

subtest. In this test participants were asked to explain what two items had in common.

The items range in difficulty from simple (e.g., orange-banana) to most difficult (praise-

punishment). The outcome for the WAIS-R Similarities subtest is numerical (0-28).

A univariate analysis of variance (ANOVA) with age group (young vs. old) as a

between-subjects variable and total number correct responses on task as the

dependent variable was used to compare performance on the Similarities subtest. A

univariate analysis of covariance (ANCOVA), again with age group (young vs. old) as a

between-subjects variable and total number correct responses on task as the

dependent variable with cognitive factor and verbal factor as covariates was used to

compare performance controlling for the level of cognitive and verbal skill.









Hypothesis-Prediction 3: Divergent and Convergent Associative Verbal
Processing

It has been reported that the structure of the semantic system is largely

unchanged by age, however, to this point, the studies that assessed this using word

association tasks limited the number of associates participants were asked to produce.

Since we know that interhemispheric as well as intrahemispheric connectivity is affected

by aging, it was possible that this change in connectivity would result in older adults

producing fewer associates for a given word than younger adults, as well as producing

more common (i.e., more frequent) associates. Since normal aging affects cortical

connectivity and connectivity is required for activation of a wide variety of semantic

networks, we predicted that OAs would perform more poorly on associative tasks than

YAs. Verbal associative processing was assessed using two associative tasks.

Associative fluency

Each participant was given five words and asked to list all the words he or she

could think of that were associated with the target word. There was no time limit on

completion of this task. This task was audio recorded and later transcribed. Associative

Fluency has two outcomes:

Fluency outcome/response variable is numerical (1-30+)
Uniqueness outcome/response variable is numerical (.0001 1)

Uniqueness was calculated in the same manner for this task as in the Unusual

Uses Test (see description under Hypothesis/Prediction 1 above). A MANOVA with age

group (young vs. old) as a between-subjects variable and total fluency and mean

uniqueness as the dependent variables was used to compare performance on the

Associative Fluency task. A MANCOVA with age group (young vs. old) as a between-

subjects variable and total fluency and mean uniqueness as the dependent variables









with the cognitive factor and verbal factor as covariates was used to compare

performance controlling for the level of cognitive and verbal skill.

Remote associates test (RAT)

This test required respondents to access the semantic representations for three

clue words and find one fourth word that was linked with all three. The clue words were

able to be related to the solution word in a number of ways, (e.g., semantically or

associatively related, two parts of a compound word, or words used as synonyms). For

example the trio (falling, actor, dust) with the solution "star". "Falling" and "star" are

associatively linked, "actor" and "star" are synonyms, and "stardust" is a compound

word. There were 20 items in this task, response was scored for accuracy. The RATs

outcome/response variable is numerical (1-20).

An ANOVA with age group (young vs. old) as a between-subjects variable and

total number of correct responses on task as the dependent variable was used to

compare performance on the RAT. An ANCOVA, again with age group (young vs. old)

as a between-subjects variable and total number correct responses on task as the

dependent variable with cognitive factor and verbal factor as covariates was used to

compare performance controlling for the level of cognitive and verbal skill.

Hypothesis-Prediction 4: Creative Verbal Production

The final experimental task required a synthesis of creative processing in that it

required participants to use more than one type of processing to create a novel verbal

production. The participants were asked to produce four novel stories incorporating lists

of words that were given to the participant in writing. The participants were given four

separate lists of unrelated words (e.g., chair, star, and tulip) one list at a time, and

asked to produce a short story incorporating the words. This task was based on









previously reported studies (Bekhtereva et al., 2000; Howard-Jones, et al., 2005) that

used fMRI to investigate areas of the brain associated with novel story generation.

The participants were instructed to be as creative as possible and to make sure

that their story made sense. They were given up to two minutes before telling each story

to think of a plot and then were asked to verbally relate the story to the investigator. The

participants were told that the story did not need to be long and that a length of five to

ten sentences would be appropriate. All participants produced a total of four stories. The

ratings for the first story were used to calibrate reliability for the panel of story raters, the

other three were analyzed for the experiment. The stories were judged on a 1-5 Likert

scale on 5 categories: novelty/uniqueness, cohesiveness, organization, and

appropriateness and an overall score.

The stories were recorded and transcribed. They were then rated by an

independent panel of judges familiar with narrative discourse. The panel included a

speech-language pathologist with five years experience analyzing discourse samples, a

professional editor, and a creative writer. Before rating any of the stories, the judges

reviewed the categories and were given definitions (shown in Appendix A) as well as a

suggested guide to scoring for each category (shown in Appendix B). The stories were

randomized both for group and order. The judges were then given the first stories to

rate as a training measure to calibrate reliability. Resulting reliability on the first stories

for all participants based on a point-by-point comparison was 84.20%.

Since associative processing is involved in both divergent and convergent

processing (when relationships have not been previously learned) this may be a critical

element of novel verbal productions. Since associative processing is dependent on









cortical connectivity which is affected by aging, we predicted that OAs would have lower

scores on the task of novel verbal production (e.g., story telling) than YAs.

A MANOVA with age group (young vs. old) as a between-subjects variable and the

five rating factors used to judge the stories (novelty/uniqueness, cohesiveness,

organization, appropriateness and overall score) as the dependent variables was used

to compare performance on the storytelling task. A MANCOVA with age group (young

vs. old) as a between-subjects variable and the five rating factors used to judge the

stories (i.e., novelty/uniqueness, cohesiveness, organization, appropriateness and

overall score) as the dependent variables with cognitive factor and verbal factor as

covariates was used to compare performance controlling for the level of cognitive and

verbal skill.

Hypothesis-Prediction 5: Associations between Type of Verbal Processing,
Creative Verbal Production and Standard Measures of Language and Cognitive
Ability

Many of the tests used to investigate creative processing in this study have not

been investigated in terms of their relationship to aging or in relation to standard

cognitive measures. For this reason, we were interested in how the measures would

correlate with each other as well as with standard language and cognitive measures.

We predicted that the convergent measures would correlate with measures of lexical-

semantic knowledge (i.e., WAIS-R vocabulary and auditory naming) and that divergent

tasks would correlate with measures of frontal function (i.e., SNST). Furthermore, we

predicted that measures of uniqueness in divergent tasks would correlate with

production of more highly creative stories in the constrained story production task.

Pearson correlation coefficients were used to indicate the association between

story scores, creativity tests (i.e., divergent, convergent and associative tasks), and









language and cognitive tests. The alpha for statistical significance was set at p < .05.


We conducted four separate correlations:

Story scores and language and cognitive measures
Creativity tests and language and cognitive measures
Story scores and creativity tests
Creativity tests intercorrelations









Table 3-1. Group means and standard deviations (SD) for demographic data and
scores on exclusionary tests
Measure Older Adults Younger Adults
Mean SD Mean SD
Age 72.93 4.99 20.21 1.88

Education 17.23 3.56 14.27 1.17

MMSE 29.17 1.32 NA NA

BDI 3.50 3.17 4.37 3.37









CHAPTER 4
RESULTS

Group Comparisons on Tests of Language and Cognitive Ability

Older and younger adult participants' scores on a series of language and cognitive

measures were compared using a series of ANOVAs. Means and standard deviations

can be found in Table 4-1. OAs performed significantly better than YAs on both lexical-

semantic tests; WAIS-R vocabulary [F(1,59) = 5.48, p = .02] and auditory naming

[F(1,59) = 16.90, p = <.001]. OAs were significantly worse than YAs on a test of

inhibition/disengagement, the STROOP color-word interference test (SNST) [F(1,59) =

33.76, p = <.001], but no significant difference was found between groups on the

working memory task, operation span (OSPAN), [F(1,59) = 1.42, p = .24].

As discussed in the literature review, the processes investigated in this study (i.e.,

divergent verbal processing, convergent verbal processing and associative verbal

processing) are thought to be in some part dependent on cognitive abilities as well as

semantic abilities. We therefore planned to run covariance analyses as well as mean

comparisons on all of our questions involving creative verbal processing. However, with

each additional covariate added to an analysis, the likelihood of collinearity of the

variables increases, which can result in adding little to the percent of variance explained

and also makes interpretation of the standard errors of the individual covariates difficult.

Consequently, we submitted the scores on the lexical-semantic tests as well as the

cognitive tests to a principal components analysis with Varimax rotation. This factor

analysis yielded two significant factors that together accounted for 68.94% of the

variance in scores (see Table 4-2). Performance on the WAIS R vocabulary test and the

auditory naming tests showed the highest loadings on Factor 1, we named this the









verbal factor. Similarly, performance on the SNST and the OSPAN had the highest

loadings on Factor 2; therefore, we have named this the cognitive factor. Because a

higher score on Factor 2 was indicative of lower performance level while high scores on

the verbal factor indicated better performance, we transformed the cognitive factor

scores by multiplying them by negative one for ease of interpretation. Thus, higher

verbal and cognitive factor scores indicate better performance in both domains. These

two factors will be used in all analyses of covariance described below.

Group Comparisons on Experimental Tests of Creative Verbal Processing

Analyses for Hypothesis-Prediction 1: Differences between Younger and Older
Adults in a Divergent Verbal Processing Task (Unusual Uses Test)

A MANOVA with age group (young vs. old) as a between-subjects variable and

total fluency and mean uniqueness as the dependent variables was used to compare

performance on the Unusual Uses Test. Means and standard deviations for all

MANOVAs (and ANOVAs) are shown in Table 4-3. The multivariate tests showed no

significant multivariate effect for group [F(1,58) = 2.90, p= .06, partial q2 = .092].

However, the tests of between-subjects effects which looked at the dependent variables

individually, showed a significant group effect for uniqueness [F(1,58) = 5.026, p= .02,

partial r2 = .080], but not for total fluency [F(1,58) = .03, p= .862, partial r2 = .001].

A MANCOVA with age group (young vs. old) as a between-subjects variable and

total fluency and mean uniqueness as the dependent variables with the cognitive factor

and verbal factor as covariates was also computed. The multivariate tests showed no

significant multivariate effect of the verbal factor on overall performance [F(1,53) = .30,

p= .74, partial r2 = .011], and no significant effect of the verbal factor on the dependent

variables individually, mean uniqueness [F(1,53) = .09, p= .77, partial n2 = .002] or total









fluency [F(1,53) = .38, p= .54, partial q2 = .007]. The multivariate tests did show a

significant multivariate effect of the cognitive factor on overall performance [F(1,53) =

3.95, p= .03, partial r2 = .130] with a significant effect on total fluency [F(1,53) = 7.71,

p= .008, partial r2 = .125] but not on mean uniqueness [F(1,53) = 1.77, p= .19, partial

q2 = .032].

In sum, a significant difference between younger and older adults was found for

mean uniqueness, showing that older adults produced significantly more unique

responses than younger adults. However, when the effect of performance on cognitive

tests was used as a covariate, the cognitive factor was found to have a significant

multivariate group effect as well as a significant effect on total fluency, but did not have

a significant effect on mean uniqueness.

Analyses for Hypothesis-Prediction 2: Differences between Younger and Older
Adults in a Convergent Verbal Processing Task (Similarities Subtest)

An ANOVA with age group (young vs. old) as a between-subjects variable and

total number of correct responses on the task as the dependent variable was used to

compare performance on the Similarities subtest. Means and standard deviations are

shown in Table 4-3. The tests of between-subjects effects showed a significant group

effect [F(1,54) = 9.06, p= .004, partial r2 = .139], with older adults producing

significantly more correct responses. An ANCOVA, again with age group (young vs. old)

as a between-subjects variable and total number of correct responses on task as the

dependent variable and the cognitive factor and verbal factor as covariates was also

computed. Group significance was maintained when controlling for the covariates of

verbal ability and cognitive skills [F(1,54) = 11.69 p< .001, partial n2 = .403]. The verbal

factor was found to have a highly significant effect on performance on the WAIS-R









Similarities subtest with [F(1,54) = 19.55, p< .001, partial r2 = .273]. However, the

cognitive factor was not significant [F(1,54) = .20, p= .66, partial n2 = .004], indicating

little to no predictive effect on performance on this task.

In sum, OAs performed significantly better on this convergent processing task than

did the YAs. Performance on the lexical semantic tests (i.e., the verbal factor) was

significantly associated with performance on the Similarities subtest. Nevertheless,

group performance remained significantly different when verbal ability was covaried.

Analyses for Hypothesis-Prediction 3: Differences between Younger and Older
Adults in Associative Verbal Processing Tasks

Associative Fluency: A MANOVA with age group (young vs. old) as a between-

subjects variable and total fluency and mean uniqueness as the dependent variables

was used to compare performance on the Associative Fluency task. Means and

standard deviations are shown in Table 4-3. The multivariate tests showed a highly

significant main effect for group [F(1,58) = 8.90, p< .001, partial r2 = .238]. The tests of

between-subjects effects which looked at the dependent variables individually, also

showed a significant group effect for mean uniqueness [F(1,58) = 6.03, p= .017, partial

q2 = .094], but not for total fluency [F(1,58) = .1.79, p= .186, partial n2 = .030]. OAs

produced a greater proportion of unique items than YAs, although the total number of

items produced did not differ by group.

A MANCOVA with age group (young vs. old) as a between-subjects variable and

total fluency and mean uniqueness as the dependent variables using the cognitive

factor and verbal factor as covariates was also computed. Group significance was

maintained while controlling for the covariates of verbal ability and cognitive skills

[F(1,58) = 9.54, p< .001, partial n2 = .265]. The multivariate tests showed no significant









multivariate effect of the verbal factor on overall performance [F(1,58) = 2.05, p= .14,

partial q2 = .072] and no significant effect of the verbal factor on the dependent

variables individually, mean uniqueness [F(1,58) = 2.45, p= .12, partial r2 = .123] or

total fluency [F(1,58) = .02, p= .88, partial r2 = .000]. The multivariate tests also did not

show a significant multivariate effect of the cognitive factor on overall performance

[F(1,58) = 2.45, p= .10, partial r2 = .085]. However, the cognitive factor did show a

significant effect on mean uniqueness [F(1,58) = 4.78, p= .03, partial r2 = .081] but not

on total fluency [F(1,58) = 2.72, p= .11, partial q2 = .048].

In sum, a highly significant group difference between OAs and YAs was found on

performance in the Associative Fluency task, which was maintained even when verbal

and cognitive skill level were covaried. OAs produced significantly more unique

responses than did the YAs. Verbal skill level was not found to predict this, but cognitive

ability did predict performance on the dependent variable of mean uniqueness. This

finding is in opposition to the finding in Hypothesis 1, in which the cognitive factor was

found to have a significant group effect as well as a significant effect on total fluency but

not on mean uniqueness.

The RAT: An ANOVA with age group (young vs. old) as a between-subjects

variable and total number of correct responses on task as the dependent variable was

used to compare performance on the RAT. Means and standard deviations are shown

in Table 4-3. Although OAs had showed a larger mean number of correct responses,

the tests of between-subjects effects showed no significant group effect [F(1,58) = 2.23,

p= .140, partial r2 = .037].









An ANCOVA, again with age group (young vs. old) as a between-subjects variable

and total number of correct responses on task as the dependent variable with cognitive

factor and verbal factor as covariates was also computed. The multivariate effect of

Group was significant [F(1,56) = 2.88, p= .04, partial q2 = .138] when the effects verbal

and cognitive ability were controlled. The verbal factor was found to have a highly

significant effect on performance on the RAT [F(1,5) = 6.73, p= .01, partial r2 = .111].

However, the cognitive factor was not significant [F(1,56) = .16, p= .70, partial r2 =

.003], indicating little to no predictive effect on performance on this task.

In sum, OAs performed significantly better on this convergent associative

processing task than did the YAs, when verbal ability was covaried. Verbal ability was

significantly associated with performance on this task. This finding is similar to the

finding in Hypothesis 2, wherein OAs produced significantly more correct responses on

a convergent processing task, the WAIS-R Similarities test.

Analyses for Hypothesis-Prediction 4: Differences between Younger and Older
Adults in a Creative Verbal Production Task (Storytelling)

A MANOVA with age group (young vs. old) as a between-subjects variable and

mean score across all three stories for the 5 rating factors (novelty/uniqueness,

cohesiveness, organization, appropriateness and overall score) as the dependent

variables was used to compare performance on the storytelling task. The multivariate

tests showed a highly significant multivariate effect of Group [F(1,54) = 5.22, p< .001,

partial r2 = .343] in favor of YAs. The tests of between-subjects effects which looked at

the dependent variables individually, also showed a significant group effects for mean

appropriateness [F(1,54) =8.96, p=.004, partial r2 = .142], mean uniqueness [F(1,54) =

18.33, p< .001, partial n2 = .253], and mean overall score [F(1,54) = 22.21, p <.001,









partial q2 = .291]. YAs received significantly higher (better) scores in all three

categories. Group differences only showed a trend toward significance for mean

cohesion [F(1,54) = 3.11, p= .08, partial n2 = .055] and mean organization [F(1,54) =

2.68, p= .11, partial n2 = .047].

A MANCOVA with age group (young vs. old) as a between-subjects variable and

mean score for the 5 rating factors as the dependent variables with the cognitive factor

and verbal factor as covariates was also computed. The multivariate effect of group

remained highly significant [F(1,54) = 5.54, p< .001, partial n2 = .376], and there was

also a significant effect of the verbal factor [F(1,54) = 2.73, p= .03, partial n2 = .229], but

not the cognitive factor [F(1,54) = .41, p= .84, partial n2 = .043]. The tests of between-

subjects effects showed that when verbal and cognitive ability were controlled, all five

rating factors became significantly different between groups with YAs outperforming

OAs in all five categories: mean cohesion [F(1,54) =3.19, p=.03, partial n2 = .161],

mean organization [F(1,54) = 4.77, p= .005, partial n2 = .222], mean appropriateness

[F(1,54) = 4.67, p= .006, partial n2 = .219], mean uniqueness [F(1,54) = 6.20, p= .001,

partial n2 = .271] and mean overall score [F(1,54) = 10.12, p< .001, partial n2 = .378].

The verbal factor was significantly associated with performance in three of the five

categories: mean cohesion [F(1,54) = 6.0, p=.02, partial r2 = .107], mean organization

[F(1,54) = 7.52, p= .008, partial r2 = .131], and mean overall score [F(1,54) = 5.80, p=

.02, partial r2 = .104]. The verbal factor was not significantly related to performance on

the uniqueness category [F(1,54) = 1.40, p= .24, partial r2 = .027] or mean

appropriateness [F(1,54) = 3.60, p= .06, partial r2 = .067], however. Controlling for the









cognitive factor did not significantly associate with performance in any of the five

categories used to judge the stories.

In sum, OA participants' stories were scored more poorly particularly in

uniqueness, appropriateness and overall score. Without controlling for verbal ability or

cognitive skill level, those three categories were significantly different between groups,

but cohesion and organization were not. However, when verbal ability was controlled,

OA participants were judged as having performed more poorly on all rating categories

although the verbal factor did not predict performance on uniqueness or

appropriateness scores. The cognitive factor did not predict performance.

Analyses for Hypothesis-Prediction 5: Associations between Type of Verbal
Processing, Creative Verbal Production and Standard Measures of Language
and Cognitive Ability

Pearson correlation coefficients were used to indicate the association between

story scores, creativity tests (divergent, convergent and associative tasks), and

language and cognitive tests. The alpha for statistical significance was set at p< .05. We

conducted four separate correlations discussed below in turn.

Story scores and language and cognitive measures: Pearson Product Moment

Correlations among the five story scores and the lexical-semantic and cognitive

measures are presented in Table 4-4 and 4-5. Several tables were divided into two

parts due to the large number of correlations being performed. The strongest correlation

was found between the score on the test of disengagement (SNST) and the uniqueness

score [r(56) = -.469, p< .001], and the overall score [r(56) = -.499, p<. 001]. This

indicates that a higher score on the SNST (i.e., greater difficulty with disengagement

from a prepotent response) was significantly and negatively related to higher









uniqueness and overall scores. Performance on the WAIS-R vocabulary was

significantly correlated with the organization score [r(56) = .281, p= .036].

There were a number of positive correlations among the story scores themselves

as well. These included correlations between cohesion and organization [r(56) = .598,

p< .001], between organization and appropriateness [r(56) = .318, p= .017], and

organization and overall score [r(56) = .340, p= .010], appropriateness and overall score

[r(56) = .439, p= .001], and between originality and appropriateness [r(56) = .299, p=

.025] and originality and overall score [r(56) = .917, p< .001].

Creativity tests and language and cognitive measures: Correlations between

the divergent, convergent and associative creativity tests and the lexical-semantic and

cognitive measures are presented in Tables 4-6 and 4-7.

Performance on the RAT was significantly associated with performance on the

WAIS-R vocabulary test [r(60) = .296, p= .021] as well as auditory naming [r(60) = .371,

p< .004]. Performance on the WAIS-R similarities was also significantly associated with

performance on the WAIS-R vocabulary test [r(58) = .555, p< .001] as well as auditory

naming [r(58) = .476, p< .001]. Total fluency on the Associative Fluency task was

significantly and negatively correlated with performance on the SNST [r(58) = -.276, p=

.036], and total fluency on the Unusual Uses task was significantly correlated with

performance on the OSPAN [r(60) = .332, p= .010].

Story scores and creativity tests: Correlations between the five story scores and

the divergent, convergent and associative creativity tests are presented in Tables 4-8

and 4-9. The story score for cohesion was significantly and negatively related to total

fluency on the Associative Fluency task [r(56) = -.328, p= .014] as well as mean









uniqueness [r(58) = -.276, p= .039], and mean uniqueness on the Unusual uses test as

well [r(58) = -.300, p= .024]. The story score for organization was significantly and

negatively related to mean uniqueness on the Unusual uses test as well [r(58) = -.309,

p= .021].

Creativity test intercorrelations: Correlations between the divergent, convergent

and associative creativity tests are presented in Table 4-10. There were a number of

positive correlations among the creativity tests. The RAT and the WAIS-R similarities

subtest were significantly related [r(58) = .323, p= .013]. In addition, the WAIS-R

similarities subtest was significantly related to total fluency on the Unusual Uses test

[r(58) = .273, p= .038]. The Unusual Uses test and the Associative Fluency task were

significantly intercorrelated on both mean uniqueness scores for both tests as well as

mean uniqueness scores for both tests (mean uniqueness scores for both tests [r(58) =

.426, p=.001], total fluency scores for both tests [r(60) = .556, p < .001], both parts of

Associative Fluency (mean uniqueness and total fluency) [r(60) = .503, p < .001], both

parts of Unusual Uses (mean uniqueness and total fluency) [r(60) = .299, p=.020],

Associative Fluency total fluency and Unusual Uses mean uniqueness [r(60) = .308, p=

.016], and Associative Fluency mean uniqueness and Unusual Uses total fluency [r(60)

= .390, p=.002]).










Table 4-1. Group means and standard deviations (SD) for language and cognitive
measures
Measure Older Adults Younger Adults
Mean SD Mean SD
WAIS-R vocab 49.50 6.62 44.73 8.98
Audit. Naming 38.80 1.96 36.50 2.74
OSPAN 29.73 11.40 33.40 12.38
SNST 96.89 42.93 47.67 17.07






Table 4-2. Principal component analysis for cognitive and verbal factors
Measures Component 1 Component 2


WAIS-R vocab .832
Audit. Naming .847
OSPAN .237
SNST .205
*Rotation Method: Varimax with Kaiser Normalization.


-.117
.093
-.767
.800


Table 4-3. Group means and standard deviations (SD) for experimental creativity tests

Measure Older Adults Younger Adults
Mean SD Mean SD
Unusual Uses
Mean Uniqueness .40 .10 .34 .10
Total Fluency 26.43 11.36 26.97 12.29
Associative Fluency
Mean Uniqueness .48 .10 .40 .13
Total Fluency 63.43 37.66 83.90 74.78
WAIS-R Similarities 22.70 3.98 19.07 5.16
Remote Associates Test 11.17 3.16 9.83 3.72
Storytelling Scores
Cohesion 4.18 .63 4.38 .63
Organization 3.33 .93 3.63 .88
Appropriateness 4.63 .47 4.85 .30
Uniqueness/Originality 2.94 .84 3.69 .85
Overall 2.82 .67 3.48 .74









Table 4-4. Correlations between story telling scores and language measures
Measure Correlation 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Significance
WAIS-Rvocab (1) r 1 .461 .199 .281 .064 .008 .112
p .000 .142 .036 .639 .955 .413
Aud. Naming (2) r 1 .069 .164 .029 -.082 -.006
p .612 .227 .835 .549 .965
Cohesion (3) r 1 .598 .196 .017 .237
p .000 .147 .900 .079
Organization (4) r 1 .318 .055 .340
p .017 .688 .010
Appropriate (5) r 1 .299 .439
p .025 .001
Uniqueness (6) r 1 .917
p .000
Overall (7) r 1
p






Table 4-5. Correlations between story telling scores and cognitive measures
Measure Correlation 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Significance
SNST (1) r 1 -.238 -.059 -.242 -.231 -.469 -.499
p .073 .671 .078 .092 .000 .000
OSPAN (2) r 1 .183 .223 .190 .042 .116
p .177 .099 .161 .759 .395
Cohesion (3) r 1 .598 .196 .017 .237
p .000 .147 .900 .079
Organization (4) r 1 .318 .055 .340
p .017 .688 .010
Appropriate (5) r 1 .299 .439
p .025 .001
Uniqueness (6) r 1 .917
p .000
Overall (7) r 1
P









Table 4-6. Correlations between creativity tests and language measures
Measure Correl. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Signif.
WAIS-R vocab r 0001 .461 .296 .555 .099 -.012 .156 .144
(1)
p .000 .021 .000 .453 .925 .233 .274
Aud. naming r 1 .371 .476 .036 .117 .120
(2) .054
p .004 .000 .680 .788 .375 .361
RAT r 1 .323 .055 .122 .026
(3) .140
p .013 .288 .674 .355 .846
WAIS-R Similar r 1 .043 -.012 .113 .273
(4)
p .750 .926 .398 .038
AF mean unique r 1 .503 .426 .390
(5)
p .000 .001 .002
AF total Fluency r 1 .308 .556
(6)
p .016 .000
UU mean unique r 1 .299
(7)
p .020
UU total Fluency r 1
(8)
p









Table 4-7. Correlations between creativity tests and cognitive measures
Measure Correl. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Signif.
SNST r 001 -.238 .072 .227 .123 .039 -.215
(1) .276
p .073 .592 .093 .358 .036 .771 .104
OSPAN r 1 .054 .242 .179 .194 .061 .332
(2)
p .684 .068 .171 .137 .644 .010
RAT r 1 .323 -.140 .055 .122 .026
(3)
p .013 .288 .674 .355 .846
WAIS-R Similar r 1 .043 -.012 .113 .273
(4)
p .750 .926 .398 .038
AF mean unique r 1 .503 .426 .390
(5)
p .000 .001 .002
AF total Fluency r 1 .308 .556
(6)
p .016 .000
UU mean unique r 1 .299
(7)
p .020
UU total Fluency r 1
(8)
p









Table 4-8. Correlations between story scores and divergent creativity tests
Measure Corr. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Signif.


Cohesion r 1 .


Organization
(2)

Appropriate
(3)

Uniqueness
(4)

Overall
(5)

UU mean
unique
(6)


UU total
fluency
(7)

AF mean
unique
(8)

AF total
fluency
(9)


8 9


598 .196 .017 .237 -.183
.300 .276 .328
.000 .147 .900 .079 .024 .177 .039 .014
1 .318 .055 .340 -.043 -.218 -.144
.309
.017 .688 .010 .021 .752 .107 .290
1 .299 .439 -.222 .189 -.058 .202

.025 .001 .100 .163 .672 .135
1 .917 -.137 -.069 -.122 .148

.000 .313 .611 .369 .277
1 -.158 -.036 -.181 .098

.244 .794 .182 .471
1 .299 .426 .308


.020 .001 .016
1 .390 .556


.002 .000
1 .503


.000
1


I









Table 4-9. Correlation between story scores and convergent creativity tests
Measure Correl. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Signif.
Cohesion r 1 .598 .196 .017 .237 .047 -.001
(1)
p .000 .147 .900 .079 .729 .994
Organization r 1 .318 .055 .340 .048 -.051
(2)
p .017 .688 .010 .728 .716
Appropriate r 1 .299 .439 .080 .091
(3)
p .025 .001 .558 .514
Uniqueness r 1 .917 .014 -.004
(4)
p .000 .917 .979
Overall r 1 .053 -.030
(5)
p .699 .827
RAT r 1 .323
(6)
p .013
WAIS-R Simil. r 1
(7)

P









Table 4-10. Correlations among creativity tests
Measure Correl. 1 2 3 4 5 6
Signif.
RAT r 1 .323 -.140 .055 .122 .026
(1)
p .013 .288 .674 .355 .846
WAIS-R Simil r 1 .043 -.012 .113 .273
(2)
p .750 .926 .398 .038
AF mean unique r 1 .503 .426 .390
(3)
p .000 .001 .002
AF total fluency r 1 .308 .556
(4)
p .016 .000
UU mean unique r 1 .299
(5)
p .020
UU total fluency r 1
(6)
P









CHAPTER 5
DISCUSSION

The purpose of this study was to investigate creative verbal processing and

assess how those processes were affected by healthy aging. It has been suggested that

there are a number of processes involved in creative processing; these include

divergent processing, convergent processing and associative processing. The

processes are thought to rely on, or use similar resources to, different forms of cognitive

processing. Divergent processing is thought to rely heavily on frontal functions such as

disengagement, convergent processing on domain-specific knowledge and associative

processing is thought to rely on knowledge of semantic relationships.

We had predicted that our older adult participants would perform more poorly on

tasks requiring frontal functions since it is known that older adults show deficits in a

number of tasks assessing frontal functions. We predicted that older adults would

perform as well as or better than younger adults on a convergent task, but only if the

task required processing previously learned concepts. We also predicted that older

adults would perform more poorly on associative tasks. Although older adults generally

have larger vocabularies indicating a greater number of semantic representations, they

are also known to have decreases in inter and intra-hemispheric connectivity which

could affect ability to access associations across a wide network of semantic

relationships on demand. Finally, we predicted that our older adult participants would

have poorer scores in a task of creative production which required the use of all the

types of processes. We also wanted to examine the relationships among the tests used

in this experiment as well as their relationship to standard language and cognitive

measures.









Divergent Processing

The first test we used to assess divergent processing was the Unusual Uses Test.

Previous research has shown age-related decline in verbal fluency in older adults on

many semantic fluency type tasks (Kozora & Cullum, 1995; Troyer, Moscovitch, &

Winocur, 1997). However, no significant difference was found in number of overall

responses between younger and older adults. In addition, we found that the older adults

produced more unique responses than did the younger adults, a finding we had not

predicted. When we covaried with the verbal and cognitive factors, the cognitive factor

had a significant predictive effect on performance on fluency on this test. Subsequent

correlational analysis showed a highly significant correlation between fluency on this

measure and working memory (i.e., performance on the OSPAN). This indicates that

ability to produce a large number of responses on this test was dependent in part on

working memory.

The findings for this divergent test contrast in some ways with the findings for our

second divergent measure, the Associative Fluency task. The main finding, that older

adults produced more unique responses was found in both tests. Where the results

varied was in the correlations with cognitive ability. For the Associative Fluency task, it

was disengagement (as measured by the SNST) that was correlated with fluency, rather

than working memory. We believe that the difference in findings between correlations

for fluency may be influenced by the nature of the divergent tasks required. The first

test, Unusual Uses, required the respondent to think of uses for an object. Answers

tended to be anywhere from five to fifteen words apiece and were often phrased in

terms of actions the participant remembered using the object for (e.g., "I have used a

toothpick to make a stake for a new tomato plant..."). Strategic search processes may









be important in this task (Bryan & Luszcz, 2000) and it is likely that this test required

activation of larger neural networks than did the Associative Fluency task which

required only single word responses. This may explain why working memory was

correlated with this task but not with the Associative Fluency task which was less

cognitively demanding. Associative Fluency on the other hand, was significantly and

negatively correlated with disengagement as measured by SNST, indicating that an

ability to disengage was important in producing multiple single word associates. The

production of multiple associates for a single word does require an ability to switch

between categories, which would require disengaging from a current category, since the

number of possible associates in any single category would be limited.

The finding that older adults produced more unique responses on these two

measures was not predicted by the authors of this study, and is in contrast with other

available research on this topic. In regards to Unusual Uses, there is very little data

currently examining age differences on this test. Bryan & Luszcz (2000) do report

having found an age difference in performance on this test but it is not clear which

possible scoring criteria accounted for this difference. We scored only for uniqueness

and fluency for this study but not for perseverations or answers that listed usual rather

than unusual responses. There have been a number of studies addressing age

differences in Associative Fluency tasks. Lovelace and Cooley (1982) found that high

vocabulary scores in both young and older adults were associated with producing more

common (i.e., more frequent) responses on word association tasks. We did not find

even near significant correlations between vocabulary level and uniqueness scores for

our groups. Howard (1980) and Hirsh and Tree (2001) also both report findings that









younger adults produced a wider variety of responses, more unique responses, and

more instances of providing non-dominant responses. Again, we found that our older

adults produced more unique responses. However, our task differed from any others

currently found in the literature in that we placed no time constraints on participants and

asked them to list all associates they could think of. This difference may account for our

findings since it removes speed of processing considerations which are known to affect

older adults more strongly than younger adults.

Convergent Processing

Older adults performed significantly better on the convergent processing task, the

WAIS-R similarities subtest. Older adults had higher mean scores on the associative

convergent task, the RAT, but this difference was only significant when verbal ability

was covaried. Convergent processing emphasizes logic, accuracy, and recognition of

the familiar and is linked to knowledge since it often involves manipulation of previously

acquired information (Cropley, 2006). In the case of verbal convergent processing, the

previously acquired information that would be important is language knowledge. We

know that vocabulary stays stable or increases with age (Verhaeghen, 2003), a finding

verified by our study as well, wherein our older adult participants performed significantly

better on both language ability measures (i.e., WAIS-R vocabulary and auditory

naming).

Both of the convergent tests correlated significantly with both of the language

measures, while none of the divergent measures correlated with the language ability

measures. This indicates that the convergent processing tasks were much more

dependent on the domain specific knowledge of language, and therefore the older

adults' superior language ability allowed them to perform better on these tasks. Both









convergent tasks required an ability to find similarity or commonality in words or

concepts, an ability that is dependent on knowledge of semantic relationships We

predicted that older adults may perform as well as or better than younger adults in a

convergent verbal processing task if the relationships were previously learned, which

would make a response dependent simply on recalling pre-existing knowledge of

learned semantic relationships. The results of our convergent processing tests and the

high correlations with language ability measures suggest that these tasks did rely in

large part on previously acquired lexical-semantic knowledge. However, if relationships

had not been learned, but needed to be formulated, the semantic representations would

need to be manipulated to discover how they fit together. The task of associating novel

semantic relationships was examined using the verbal production task, short stories.

Creative Verbal Production Short Stories

This task required participants to create novel associations between unrelated

words and use them in a short story. Older adults' stories were scored more poorly in

uniqueness, appropriateness and overall score. Without controlling for verbal ability or

cognitive skill level, those three categories were significantly different between groups,

but cohesion and organization were not. However, when verbal ability was controlled,

older adult participants were judged as having performed more poorly on all rating

categories.

This finding is in contrast to the finding regarding uniqueness in the divergent

tasks where older adults produced more unique responses. We theorize that this

difference in uniqueness, or creativity, is due to the novelty of the task. In the divergent

tasks described above, participants were asked to produce responses using semantic

associates that were previously learned (e.g., that chair is associated with table),









although we did ask them to list as many learned associates as possible. In the other

task they were asked to describe alternate or unusual uses for common objects that

they would have experienced using. Many of the subjects did list uses that they had

personally experienced or had witnessed. Even many of the purely imagined uses

involved a substitution of an experienced use, for example, using a toothpick to stir (i.e.,

using it in place of a spoon or stirring straw). Older adults' greater life experiences could

be the primary factor resulting in higher uniqueness scores in these divergent tests.

They have had time to be exposed to more associates for words and time to be

exposed to more uses for common objects. The story task, on the other hand, required

formation of completely novel associations.

Older adults' greater lexical-semantic skill as evidenced by performance on

vocabulary and naming tests correlated only with organization so did not afford older

adults an advantage in this verbal production task. It may be that for a novel creative

production task such as this one, it is the ability to make new connections between

existing semantic representations that is more important than the number of semantic

representations. As mentioned previously, the literature has shown that older adults

lose white matter connections in normal aging (Guttmann et al.,1998). Although older

adults may have a greater number of semantic representations, and be able to maintain

known semantic associations between representations (as is shown by intact

processing on mediated priming tasks (Bennett & McEvoy, 1999)), they may have more

difficulty making new associations between existing representations.

There is support for the idea that diffuse connectivity of different networks both

within hemispheres and between hemispheres is involved in creative production tasks.









Studies investigating the production of stories using associated words (Petsche, 1996)

showed that there was an anatomically distributed coherence of left hemisphere EEG

oscillations during performance of this task. This indicates that a larger proportion of

cortical networks are required to create novel verbal productions than are required for

fluency tasks which show strong frontal activation but not as much widely distributed

activation.

Other studies have used neuroimaging to examine activation in production tasks of

stories using unrelated words or distant associates (e.g., Beeman, 1998; Bekhtereva et

al., 2000; Howard-Jones et al., 2005). All of these studies found that the right

hemisphere prefrontal cortex was activated when participants were asked to make

unusual associations between words or to create stories using semantically unrelated

words. However, the same area in right prefrontal cortex is shown to be activated by

processing STROOP tasks such as the SNST used in this study. The right activation

may be explained by the strong attentional and monitoring demand placed by

associating unrelated words (Howard-Jones et al., 2005).

The findings in our study support this commonality between the production of

stories using unrelated words and the ability to disengage. The strongest correlations

found between any of the scores on the story telling task and the language and

cognitive measures was that between the test of disengagement (SNST) and the

uniqueness score and the overall score. The greater trouble a participant had with

disengaging, the more likely they were to have difficulty creating a story that would be

judged as "creative" using novel associations. Uniqueness in divergent tasks did not

correlate with the SNST scores. This underscores the probability that, while divergent









processing is an important part of creative processing, it is only an element and

seemingly, not the element most affected by the changes of normal aging.

The finding that our older participants created stories that were judged more poorly

in areas such as cohesion and organization fits with the current literature. Older adults

have been shown to make more errors in cohesion in story re-telling tasks (Kemper et

al., 1990; Pratt et al., 1989; Juncos-Rabadan, 1996). However, in other studies samples

of discourse created by older adults were rated as being more interesting than those

created by younger adults (James et al., 1998; Pratt & Robins, 1991). Our study did not

support these findings; however, the verbal production task was not the same, in that

the previous studies looked personal narratives or unconstrained storytelling, whereas

our task required an additional element of associating unrelated words.

Associations Between Types of Processing

As mentioned previously, there are a number of types of processing that have

been proposed as being essential to creativity. A secondary purpose of this study was

to compare performance on tasks using the different types of processing to see if test

scores correlated with similar tests (i.e., does performance on one divergent test

correlate with performance on another), as well as to determine if performance

correlated with language or cognitive abilities thought to underlie the type of processing.

Our correlational analysis showed that both sets of scores on the divergent tests

(i.e., Unusual Uses and Associative Fluency) were all strongly correlated. Likewise, the

two convergent processing tasks were also correlated. The two tests that were

considered "associative" however, one of which was convergent (i.e., RAT) and one of

which was considered divergent (i.e., Associative Fluency) were not at all correlated.

These results show that the terms "associative convergent" or associative divergent"









may not be real distinctions. The overriding distinction seemed to be whether the task

required convergent or divergent processing, rather than whether it required associative

processing. However, the role of association in creative processing remains to be more

clearly elucidated.

We had predicted that performance on divergent tasks would correlate with

performance on a test of disengagement, as both are frontally mediated. Only one of

the divergent tasks correlated with our disengagement measure, total fluency on

Associative Fluency. Total fluency on Unusual Uses correlated with a working memory

tests. We mentioned above that we believe that this difference was due to the

complexity of the task, in that the Unusual Uses test was a more cognitively complex

task. In contrast, the convergent tests did both strongly correlate with both of the

language ability measures as predicted. Additionally, we had predicted that high scores

in uniqueness on divergent tests would predict high scores in uniqueness/originality on

the story telling task. This prediction was not borne out by our data. We believe this

difference was due to the fact that the stories required the formation of new

associations, rather than recall and production of previously learned associations.

Conclusions

The primary purpose of this study was to investigate verbal creative processing in

normal aging. We had predicted that older adults would perform more poorly on almost

all tasks. What we found was that older adults, in fact, performed better than younger

adults on many of the tasks. This finding was surprising, especially since it also did not

seem to match the level of performance shown by older adults in a story telling task, as

we had also predicted. We believe this difference is due to novelty. Older adults were

able to associate widely and produce a great range of responses when the associations









between the concepts was known, but not as easily when the task required forming new

associations. Creativity is, by most accepted definitions, the production of something

both novel and appropriate. Therefore, by this criterion, we did find that older adults

were less able to produce creative verbal productions that were judged as being unique

and appropriate.

There is now considerable literature stating that learning can occur throughout our

lifetime, even into old age (Glisky & Glisky, 2008) and that learning something new as

we age may be even more important than practicing previously acquired skills or

knowledge. Learning new information or a new skill can result in the formation of new

synaptic connections which may be protective against some of the loss of connectivity

seen in the normally aging brain. Most of the older adult participants in this study

reported enjoying taking part in the creative processing tests. The use of simple tasks

such as the creation of short stories using unrelated words could be an easy and

relatively stress free way to boost neuroplasticity in older adults and maintain healthy

cognitive and language functioning.

The importance of creating novel or unusual associations in creative processing is

a crucial and complex question that could be addressed in future studies. It would seem

that since older adults are known to have a deficit in tasks such as the STROOP test

which shows activation in the same area also shown to be active in processing novel or

distant associates, that older adults' difficulty with processing novel associates is due to

difficulty disengaging. However, studies so far that have shown increased right

prefrontal activity have all used divergent processing tasks. It is unclear whether a

convergent associative task using unusual associates (such as the RAT) would also









result in increased right prefrontal activity. This test did require processing unusual

associates and in our study, older adults performed slightly (although not significantly)

better on this test. If convergent processing of distant or unusual associates did also

activate right prefrontal, it would suggest that the recruitment of those areas in

processing associates is not necessarily where the deficit lies for older adults. An

imaging study comparing convergent processing and divergent processing of unusual or

novel associations in younger and older adults could shed some light on the source of

difficulty of creating novel associations for older adults.









APPENDIX A
STORYTELLING CATEGORY DEFINITIONS

* Novelty/Originality this rating refers to whether the story uses ideas that are

generally not produced, or ideas that are totally new or unique (based on Torrance,

1974)

* Cohesiveness this rating is an assessment of whether the story makes correct use

of cohesive devices such as pronouns, conjunctions, and determiners. (For instance,

are there pronouns with no referent noun?)

* Organization This rating is used to judge the overall structure of the story. (For

instance, does the story have a recognizable beginning and end? Are sentences left

unfinished or grammatically incorrect?)

* Appropriateness this rating refers to whether the story makes sense or, in contrast,

whether the participant strung the provided words together in a haphazard fashion

without attempting to create a real story.

* Overall score This rating is intended to elicit the judges' overall impression of the

story as a whole









APPENDIX B
CRITERIA FOR STORY RATINGS
Appropriateness: Does the appropriately use all 3 words in their correct form and did
the participant make an effort to incorporate all words appropriately into the story or
were they used haphazardly? Participants may change the order of the words but not
the form (e.g., no plurals or adding "ing"). Ratings refer only to the criteria set out below,
even if organization and/or cohesion is poor for this story.
5 All 3 words are in their correct form and are appropriately incorporated into the
story
4 1 word is incorrect but is appropriately incorporated OR
1 word is not appropriately incorporated (is haphazardly used) but is in its
correct form
3 2 words are incorrect but are appropriately incorporated OR
All words are correct but are not appropriately incorporated (they are
haphazardly strung together)
2 2 words are incorrect and are not appropriately incorporated
1 No words are correct and no effort was made to incorporate them into the story.

Cohesion: Does the story make correct use of cohesive devices such as pronouns (he,
she, it), conjunctions (and, or, yet) and determiners (this, that)?
5 No cohesion errors.
4 1 minor cohesion error (e.g., pronoun does not refer back to antecedent) but it
does not affect comprehensibility of story
3 1 major cohesion error that affects comprehensibility of story
2 2 cohesion errors
1 3 or more cohesion errors

Organization: Does the story structure have a clear beginning and end, appropriate
use of grammar, complete sentences, and self-corrections or interjections?
5 Story has a clear beginning and end, no grammatical errors, no unfinished
sentences, no self-corrections or interjections
4 1 organizational error
3 2 organizational errors
2 3 organizational errors
1 More than 3 organizational errors

Novelty/Originality: Does the story use less common ideas or incorporate elements
that are new or unique?
5 Story is highly original and incorporates ideas in a unique way
4 Story is somewhat original and some ideas are unique
3 Story is average
2 Story is not very original and few elements are unique
1 Story is completely unoriginal and forgettable









Overall Impression:
5 Very impressed, scores high on all criteria
4 Somewhat impressed, scores high on most criteria
3 Average
2 Somewhat unimpressed, scores low on most criteria
1 Very unimpressed, scores low on all criteria









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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Susan Leon received an undergraduate degree in Russian in 1995 from the

University of Florida. After a brief stint in business, she returned to school and earned a

post baccalaureate degree in linguistics. She then went on to receive a master's degree

in communication sciences and disorders. Following graduation from the master's

program she began work as a research speech pathologist at the Veteran's

Administration (VA) Brain Rehabilitation Research Center at the Malcom Randall VA

Medical Center in Gainesville Florida. She returned to the University of Florida in 2001

to begin doctoral work. Her research interests focus on problems of communication and

cognition affecting adults, with a special emphasis on individuals with Alzheimer's

disease. She received her doctorate from the department of Speech, Language and

Hearing Science in 2010.





PAGE 13

Creativity Theories of C reativity

PAGE 15

Elements of Creative P rocessing Domain specific knowledge

PAGE 16

Divergent processing Convergent processing

PAGE 17

Associative processing

PAGE 18

Creative L anguage U se

PAGE 19

Creativity and Aging

PAGE 20

Changes in Structure of the Brain with Normal Aging

PAGE 21

.

PAGE 23

Changes in Functions of the Brain with Normal Aging Frontal lobe function

PAGE 26

Is divergent processing dependent upon the frontal lobes?

PAGE 27

Is cortical connectivity important to associative processing?

PAGE 28

Right hemisphere function

PAGE 29

Memory

PAGE 31

Language u se

PAGE 37

P urpose of the Study Hypotheses and Predictions Hypothesis Prediction 1: Divergent Verbal Processing

PAGE 38

Hypothesis Prediction 2: Convergent Verbal Processing Hypothesis Prediction 3: Divergent and Convergent Associative Verbal Processing

PAGE 39

Hypothesis Prediction 4: Creative Verbal Production Hypothesis Prediction 5: Associations between Type of Verbal Processing Creative Verbal Production and Standard Measures of Language and Cognitive Ability

PAGE 40

Participants

PAGE 41

Tests of Language and Cognitive Ability

PAGE 43

Testing Procedures

PAGE 44

Experimental Tests of Verbal Creative Processing Hypothesis Prediction1: Divergent Verbal P rocessing

PAGE 45

Hypothesis Prediction 2: Convergent Verbal Processing

PAGE 46

Hypothesis Prediction 3: Divergent and Convergent Associative Verbal Processing Associative f luency

PAGE 47

Remote associates t est (RAT) Hypothesis Prediction 4: Creative Verbal Production

PAGE 49

Hypothesis Prediction 5: Associations between Type of Verbal Processing Creative Verbal Production and Standard Measures of Language and Cognitive Ability

PAGE 50

p

PAGE 52

Group Comparisons on Tests of Language and Cognitive Ability F p F p F p F p

PAGE 53

Group Comparisons on Experimental Tests of Creative Verbal Processing Analyses for H ypothesis Prediction 1: Differences between Younger and Older Adults in a Divergent V erbal Processing Task (Unusual Uses Test) F p F p F p F p F p

PAGE 54

F p F p F p F p Analyses for H ypoth esisPrediction 2: Differences between Younger and Older Adults in a Convergent Verbal Processing Task (Similarities Subtest ) F p F p

PAGE 55

F p F p Analyses for H ypothesis Predi c tion 3: Differences between Younger and Older Adu lts in Associative Verbal Processing Tasks Associative F luency : F p F p F p F p

PAGE 56

F p F p F p F p F p F p The R AT : F p

PAGE 57

F p F p F p Analyses for HypothesisPrediction 4: Differences between Younger and Older Adults in a Creative Verbal Production Task (Storytelling)

PAGE 59

Analyses for Hypothesis Prediction 5: Associations between T ype of Verbal P rocessing C reative Verbal P roduction and S tandard M easur es of L anguage and Cognitive Ability p Story scores and language and cognitive measures : p p

PAGE 60

p= p p p p= p= p Creativity tests and language and cognitive measures : p= p p p p= p= Story scores and creativity tests: p=

PAGE 61

p= p= p= Creativity test intercorrelations : p p p p p p p p

PAGE 63

p p p p p p p p p p p p p p

PAGE 64

p p p p p p p p

PAGE 65

p p p p p p p p

PAGE 66

p p p p p p p p p

PAGE 67

p p p p p p p

PAGE 68

p p p p p p

PAGE 70

Divergent P rocessing

PAGE 72

Convergent P rocessing

PAGE 73

Creative Verbal Production Short Stories

PAGE 76

Associations Between T ypes of P rocessing

PAGE 77

Conclusions

PAGE 81

Appropriateness Cohesion: Organization: Novelty/Originality:

PAGE 82

Overall Impression:

PAGE 83

Geriatric n europsychology Journal of Gerontology The psychology of learning and motivation: Advances in research and theory Exp erimental Aging Res earch 32 ( Beck d epression i nventory Human Physiology, 26 Experimental Aging Research, 25 Neuropsychologia, 6, Multilingual a phasia exam Journal of General Psychology, 39 Journal of Gerontology 40 Neuropsychologia, 13 J ournal of Clinical and Exp erimental Neuropsychology 22

PAGE 84

Practical aspects of memor y: Current research and issues Psychol ogy and Aging, 1 Neuropsychology, 7 Neuropsychologia, 38 Abilities: Their structure, growth, and action Language and mind Psychol ogy and Aging, 5 Creative performance in older a dults Clinical neuropsychology Cerebral Cortex, 12 Psychology and Aging, 4 Genius.

PAGE 85

Journal of Aging Studies, 13( Issues in Ment al Health Nurs ing 28 Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 51 Am erican Journal of Neuroradiol ogy 23 Journal of Clin ical and Exp erimental Neurops ychol ogy 20 Memory and Cognition 16 Cognitive neurorehabilitation: Evidence and application Journal of Gerontology 47 Abbreviated t orrance t est for a dults m anual J ournal of Clinical Neuropsychol ogy 3 The Am erican Psychol ogist 5 Journal of Creative Behavior, 1, Alternate uses: Manual of instructions and interpretation Neurology, 50

PAGE 86

Journal of Gerontol ogy 42 Journal of Neurolinguistics, 14 Psychological Documents, 10 Aging and the semantic priming of lexical decisions Cognitive Brain Research, 25, Handbook of the p sychology of a ging Psychol ogy and Aging, 13 International Journal of Behavioral Development, 19

PAGE 87

Brain and Language, 95 Learning and m emory in n ormal a ging Neurologic Clinics 16 College Student Journal, 38 Journal of Gerontology, 42, European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 2, The clinical psychology of aging Devel opmental Neuropsychology, 7 The Clinical Neuropsychologist, 9( Age and a chievement. Clinical Neuropsychologist, 1 Neuropsychological assessment

PAGE 89

Developmental Psychology, 25 Discourse Processes, 14 Psychol ogy and Aging, 15 International Journal of Behavioral Development, 25 Journal of Neurosci ence 23 Journal of Abnormal Psychol ogy 97 Journal of Genet ic Psychol ogy 108 Arch ives of Clinical Neuropsychology 15 Language, m emory, and a ging Memory systems Semin ars in Speech and Language, 18 Psychology Monograph, ( 102

PAGE 90

Psychol ogical Bulletin 104 thinking in young children WAIS R m anual Arch ive of Gen eral Psychiatry, 43

PAGE 91

Psychol ogical Bull etin 121 Shipley i nstitute of l iving scale: R evised manual