The neural underpinnings of cross-cultural differences in creativity

Tal Ivancovsky, Oded Kleinmintz, Joo Lee, Jenny Kurman, Simone G. Shamay-Tsoory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Whereas Western individualistic cultures emphasize uniqueness, collectivistic East-Asian cultures discourage it. Here we examined whether cross-cultural differences in creativity as measured by a task of divergent thinking (DT) are explained by enhanced activity in brain regions that mediate inhibitory control (e.g., the left inferior frontal gyrus [L-IFG]). We therefore predicted that the L-IFG would be “hyperactive” among individuals from East-Asian cultures compared to Western ones. In Study 1, Israeli and South Korean participants were compared on a classic DT task (AUT; “Alternate uses: Manual of instructions and interpretation”). Israelis generated more original ideas compared to South Koreans. In Study 2, Israeli participants and South Korean participants currently living in Israel were scanned while performing the AUT. In line with previous studies, the results indicate that generation of original ideas across cultures is associated with activation of the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), which is part of the default mode network (DMN). As hypothesized, South Koreans showed enhanced activation of the L-IFG compared to Israelis. This enhanced activation was associated with lower originality scores. The cultural dimension of traditionalism, being higher in the South Korean sample than in the Israeli Sample, was related to enhance L-IFG activity, further supporting our hypothesis regarding cultural influences on inhibitory control. Furthermore, functional connectivity analysis indicated that activation of the L-IFG was positively coupled with PCC activity among Israelis and with preSMA activity among South Koreans. The results suggest that cross-cultural differences in creativity might be explained by variations in inhibitory control.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4493-4508
Number of pages16
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • creativity
  • cross-cultural differences
  • divergent thinking
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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