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An Investigation of the Effects of Retrieving and being Re-Exposed to Old Ideas on the Generation of New Ideas


People are inherently creative in that they produce ideas to solve problems often in their everyday lives. Work on idea production has investigated the role of viewing examples on people’s ability to think of new ideas, to mixed results. Some work has found that people experience fixation when they are exposed to examples that are meant to help them think more creatively (demonstrating a negative effect on the ability to think of new ideas), while other work has shown that being shown examples can be helpful for producing more creative ideas (demonstrating a positive effect). However, no work to date has examined the effect of 1) different sources of examples (i.e., self- vs. other-generated), and 2) the manner in which one interacts with these examples on creative thinking (i.e., retrieving, restudying, or doing nothing with those ideas). To examine these effects, the set of experiments in this dissertation utilized a modified version of the Alternative Uses Task to investigate the effects of example type and interaction method on the ability to generate new ideas. In these experiments, participants were asked to generate their own examples or study someone else’s examples in two phases, where the ideas from the initial phase served as examples for the second phase. Before thinking of additional ideas, participants were asked to interact with the example ideas in different ways (i.e., retrieve from memory, restudy, or do nothing with them). Results from these experiments demonstrate that recalling and restudying a diverse set of initial examples—whether one’s own or someone else’s—may not induce measurable differential effects in the Alternative Uses Task. The results from these experiments add to the growing literature on idea generation ability after exposure to examples in a number of important ways.

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