Remotely close associations: openness to experience and semantic memory structure

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Alexander P. Christensen (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Paul Silvia

Abstract: Openness to experience—the enjoyment of novel experiences, ideas, and unconventional perspectives—has shown several connections to cognition that suggest open people might have different cognitive processes than those low in openness. People high in openness are more creative, have broader general knowledge, and show greater cognitive flexibility. The associative structure of semantic memory might be one such cognitive process that people in openness differ in. In this study, 497 people completed a measure of openness to experience and verbal fluency. Three groups of high (n = 115), moderate (n = 121), and low (n = 118) openness were created to construct semantic networks—graphical models of semantic associations that provide quantifiable representations of how these associations are organized—from their verbal fluency responses. The groups were compared on graph theory measures of their respective semantic networks. The semantic network analysis revealed that as openness increased, the rigidity of the semantic structure decreased and the interconnectivity increased, suggesting greater flexibility of associations. Semantic structure also became more condensed and had better integration, which facilitates open people’s ability to reach more unique associations. These results were supported by open people coming up with more individual and unique responses, starting with less conventional responses, and having a flatter frequency proportion slope than less open people. In summary, the semantic network structure of people high in openness to experience supports the retrieval of remote concepts via short associative pathways, which promotes unique combinations of disparate concepts that are key for creative cognition.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2017
Creativity, Network Analysis, Openness to Experience, Semantic Memory
Creative ability $x Psychological aspects
Personality and creative ability
Semantic memory

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