Fifty years ago, Mednick [Psychological Review, 69 (1962) 220] proposed an elaborate model that aimed to explain how creative ideas are generated and why creative people are more likely to have creative ideas. The model assumes that creative people have flatter associative hierarchies and as a consequence can more fluently retrieve remote associative elements, which can be combined to form creative ideas. This study aimed at revisiting Mednick's model and providing an extensive test of its hypotheses. A continuous free association task was employed and association performance was compared between groups high and low in creativity, as defined by divergent thinking ability and self-report measures. We found that associative hierarchies do not differ between low and high creative people, but creative people showed higher associative fluency and more uncommon responses. This suggests that creativity may not be related to a special organization of associative memory, but rather to a more effective way of accessing its contents. The findings add to the evidence associating creativity with highly adaptive executive functioning.
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