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Unpacking creativity: a neuroscientific investigation into the subprocesses of creative cognition.

Tramontano, Daniela (2020) Unpacking creativity: a neuroscientific investigation into the subprocesses of creative cognition. Doctoral thesis, University of Surrey.

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Creative products are defined and characterised by both novelty and usefulness. In the field there is consensus that creative cognition requires two key types of processes, associative and evaluative. Although it is not clear how these two processes interact, it has been proposed that the interaction between these might be key to the creative outcome. There are two main frameworks that attempt to explain this interaction: one that suggests the interaction as happening in series, whilst the other proposes that the coupling of these processes, running in parallel might be predictive of creative outcomes, with more closely coupled processing being predictive of more creative outcomes. This thesis first developed and validated a new questionnaire, the Simultaneity scale, as an easy to administer self-report psychometric tool within the context of every-day activities. This first study revealed that creativity measures were predicted by simultaneous use of associative and evaluative processes as captured by the Simultaneity scale. Secondly, a new paradigm was designed and validated, the Associate, Create, Evaluate (ACE), capturing both associative and evaluative processes separately as well as in combination using single response trials. Within chapter 3 I explored the link between scores on the Simultaneity scale and the experience of insight when solving remote associations problems and found an association between the feeling of insight and the simultaneous use of associative and evaluative processes. In Chapters 4 and 5, the single response design enabled ACE to be used in combination with ERP, where the creative process could be examined as it unfolds. Within chapter 4, results confirm a transition from primarily using associative thinking during very early stages (500-800ms) of creative thinking, to combining both at the same time during later stages (800-1200ms). Building upon Chapter 4, I decompose evaluative processes further in Chapter 5, and investigate unconscious, gut driven evaluation. In line with findings from Chapter 3, results in Chapter 5 demonstrated that stronger gut feeling, interpreted as an early intuitive evaluation of one’s idea, was predictive of higher creative outcome. These results suggest that a more affective, gut driven component plays a key role in the production of creative ideas. Furthermore, ERP findings indicated that the presence of a gut feeling corresponds to identifiable and early 3 neural activity. Overall, the findings in this thesis have confirmed, as predicted, the important role that the interplay between associative and evaluative subprocesses plays during the creative process. Specifically, results show that simultaneous use of both associative and evaluative thinking during the early stages of a creative task might differentiate creative outcomes from more mundane ones. This lends support to the parallel model of creative cognition that states that the two subprocesses are coactivated at least for part of the creative process. Whilst I acknowledge that the debate over parallel versus serial models of creativity remains difficult to address, this thesis contributes the following; (1) the introduction of an easily administrable self-report questionnaire measuring the coupling of the underlying creative processes; (2) a novel paradigm to explore the interaction of the two processes as creative thinking unfolds in real time, by means of high temporal resolution assessments such as ERPs; (3) decomposition and in depth analysis of the subprocesses involved, including associative aspects of generative thinking and both analytical and affective evaluative processes.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Divisions : Theses
Authors : Tramontano, Daniela
Date : 29 May 2020
Funders : Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences
DOI : 10.15126/thesis.00854148
Contributors :
Depositing User : Daniela Tramontano
Date Deposited : 09 Jul 2020 09:32
Last Modified : 09 Jul 2020 09:34

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