The dynamic cognitive processes underlying creativity

Palermo, Gina Maria (2023) The dynamic cognitive processes underlying creativity. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.

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Abstract / Description

Despite the growing importance of creativity and innovation at work, the abilities that allow people to develop new and useful ideas in the workplace remain unclear. Advances in research suggest that several core cognitive processes underlie creative thought, such as problem finding, information gathering, incubation, idea generation, evaluation, and implementation. Although multiple studies have investigated these processes individually, few researchers have observed the joint impact of these processes on creativity or its dynamism. Current process models suggest that we go through these processes in a linear and logical sequence, from finding a problem to the implementation of an idea. However, some scholars have posited that multiple iterations or feedback loops may exist throughout the creative problem-solving effort. To the author’s knowledge, this study is the first to empirically investigate the feedback loops or transitions between processes and how they are related to creative output. The first study employed a mixed-method approach to investigate the core cognitive processes underlying creativity by presenting 24 participants with an ill-defined problem to solve by thinking out loud. The frequencies of and time spent engaging in each cognitive process, as well as the transitions from one process to another, were investigated quantitatively. A deductive thematic analysis was then conducted on the high and low creative output individuals to further explore these cognitive processes and to understand whether there was a difference in how the participants engaged in them. Results revealed that the frequencies, time spent, and number of transitions between idea generation, evaluation and implementation were positively correlated with creative output. The total number of transitions was also found to be positively related to creativity scores. These findings were also supported by the qualitative analysis conducted. Following the findings from the first study, Study 2 involved the same 24 participants in an online experiment designed to capture the dynamic cognitive processes underlying creativity in an objective and automated manner. The results from this study cross-validated adequately with the results obtained in Study 1, and the frequencies and time spent engaging in idea generation and implementation were found to be positively related to creative output. No significant correlations were found between the transitions between processes and creative output; however, this outcome might have been due to the small sample size. Nevertheless, the total number of transitions engaged was significantly positively related to creative output. The online experiment was then tested on a larger sample size (N = 146). A series of correlational and regression analyses confirmed the findings from Studies 1 and 2. The frequencies of idea generation, evaluation and implementation and time spent engaging in evaluation and implementation were found to be positively related to creative output, supporting the previous findings. Two subsequent multiple regression analyses revealed that the frequencies and time spent engaging in the processes had a combined effect on creative output, but only implementation was found to have a significant independent effect on creativity in both models. Additionally, significant differences were found between high and low creative output individuals when exploring the percentage of time spent engaging in certain processes compared to the other processes. Furthermore, an inverted-U relationship was also observed between information gathering and creative output as well as between overall time taken and creativity. The number of transitions made during the task were also predictive of creative output, regardless of time spent engaging in the task. Mediation analyses were then conducted to test the causal relationship between idea generation and creative output. The results revealed a full mediation effect of idea generation on creative output through the transitions from idea generation to implementation. The results were largely consistent across all three studies. The frequency and time spent in idea generation, evaluation and implementation were more or less found to be positively correlated with creative output in all three studies, including the frequent shifts between them. The creative process appears to consist of multiple feedback loops up to the point where a solution to an ill-defined problem is fully formed. Indeed, the total number of transitions engaged were positively correlated with creativity output across all three studies. Investigating these loops revealed that certain transitions from one process to another were predictive of creative output in Study 3. The process of generating a solution through a form of a generate-and-refine method appeared to be the most effective thought sequence or strategy in predicting creativity. This thesis provides new insights into the cognitive processes underlying creativity, how they function independently and holistically and, most importantly, how frequent shifts between the processes can predict creative output. This research also addresses the need to develop an instrument that captures the creative process and its dynamism in an objective, valid and cost-effective manner. Furthermore, the research findings also have several implications for creativity research and practice, such as creativity interventions. Lastly, this research puts forward alternative strategies that could be useful in both organisational and educational settings.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: creativity; cognitive processes; problem solving thinking; creative output
Subjects: 100 Philosophy & psychology > 150 Psychology
300 Social sciences
Department: School of Social Sciences and Professions
Depositing User: Chiara Repetto
Date Deposited: 12 Jan 2024 12:07
Last Modified: 22 Jan 2024 11:02
URI: https://repository.londonmet.ac.uk/id/eprint/9056

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