Associative horizon

© 2005-2023 Paul Cooijmans

Elements of associative horizon

In my thinking about genius, I have over the years realized that one of the pillars of brilliance is associative horizon (the others are intelligence and conscientiousness). To explain what I mean by this, here is a somewhat structured list of its suspected features:

Divergent and lateral abilities

Resistances to narrowing mammalian phenomena



Summarized, the person with wide associative horizon is primarily living one's own mind, not letting one's mental state be determined or strongly affected by others. This is not a choice but a personality feature outside of one's control. Such a person may be seen as unusual, isolated, original, bizarre, detached from emotion, cold.

The most recent insight as to the cause of having a wide associative horizon concerns the intellect trying to make sense of the world in the absence of mammalian instincts like empathy and "non-verbal communication" (facial expression, intonation, and body language). This is what one sees in Aspergoid, schizoid, autistic, or premorbid schizophrenic persons. Such a condition widens associative horizon, while also increasing and advancing awareness. It is as if the intellect can operate much more freely when not held back by the ancient mammalian biases of instinct. The level of intelligence and the depth of the disturbance of instinct both play a role in determining the width of associative horizon. It is a synergistic interaction; intelligence combined with the defect of instinct first causes associative horizon to be wide, and then intelligence and associative horizon both contribute to creativity (together with conscientiousness).

A remark I wish to make is that what I call "associative horizon" is by others often mistaken for "creativity". But creativity is a higher-level phenomenon, a synergy of things, of which associative horizon is only one. The idea that associative horizon itself is creativity is, of course, attractive to who do not possess much of the other components of creativity. But it is not true.

Another observation is that some think they can measure associative horizon (which they mistakenly call "creativity" as just explained) with difficult pattern recognition problems, sometimes called "creative puzzles". But to my experience (with item analysis), those who are best at solving such problems are often simply the ones with the highest I.Q.s, and not necessarily creative. The "creative puzzles" are a measure of intelligence at high levels, and not necessarily of creativity or associative horizon. On the other hand, I do not exclude the possibility that associative horizon is caught in as a side-effect, a secondary factor, by certain types of intelligence test problems, and keep experimenting to find out.

I know of no good, usable way to measure associative horizon currently. It seems that whatever you try in the realm of ability testing, you always end up measuring intelligence above all. This has less to do with the construction of the tests than with the omnipresent nature of intelligence, which typically blows all of the other behavioural variables away because it expresses itself in almost everything a person does or says. Tests in the realms of personality and mental illness do catch in aspects of associative horizon well, but are not robust as one can manipulate them by answering dishonestly.

To my most recent insights, possible indicators of associative horizon are the PSIA Cold and Introverted scales, and several high-range intelligence tests.