Subject: Creativity – Remote Associates Test
Event: Birthday of Sarnoff Andrei Mednick, 1928
Look at these three words: DREAM, BREAK, LIGHT.
Does a fourth word come to your mind automatically, a word that is associated with each of the other three?
Psychologist Sarnoff A. Mednick, who was born on this day in 1928, sought to better understand creative thinking. After interviewing scientists, architects, and mathematicians to identify their creative process, he noted that one key element of creativity is associations from memory. Being creative means being able to make associations and to connect ideas, especially ideas that aren’t immediately obvious.
Based on what he learned about creativity, Mednick created the Remote Associates Test (RAT) in the 1960s as a method of assessing creative thinking. The test is made up of word puzzles where the solver must examine three words — such as DREAM, BREAK, LIGHT — and identify the single word that links all three: DAY — as in “daydream,” “daybreak,” and “daylight.”
Some psychologists argue that the RAT is more a test of linguistic ability or problem-solving than creativity; nevertheless, Mednick’s invention remains a popular instrument. The RAT not only helps us ponder the relationship between memory and imagination, but it also meets the criteria of Albert Einstein’s definition of creativity: “Creativity is intelligence having fun” (1).
Try the following examples, which range from very easy to very hard:
- dew, comb, bee
- preserve, ranger, tropical
- sense, courtesy, place
- flower, friend, scout
- sticker, maker, point
- right, cat, carbon
- home, sea, bed
- fence, card, master
Recall, Retrieve, Recite, Ruminate, Reflect, Reason: What is the RAT, and what insights does it give us about creativity?
Challenge – Mother Tongue Lashing: What one word fits between the words ‘Jelly’ and ‘Bag’ to form two separate compound words? Jelly __________ Bag The answer is the word “bean” as in jelly bean and beanbag. This is a variation of the RAT called Mother Tongue Lashing. It takes advantage of the wealth of compound words and expressions in English. For each pair of words below, name a word that can follow the first word and precede the second one to complete a compound word or a familiar two-word phrase.
- Life __________ Travel
- Punk __________ Candy
- Green _________ Space
- Rest __________ Work
- Word __________ Book
- Rock __________ Dust
- Spelling __________ Sting
- Night __________ House
1-Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011.
Answers to the RAT: 1 honey, 2 forest, 3 common, 4 girl, 5 match, 6 copy, 7 sick, 8 post
Answers to Mother Tongue Lashing: Answers: 1 time, 2 rock, 3 back, 4 home, 5 play, 6 star, 7 bee, 8 light