Unexpected Distractions: Stimulation or Disruption to Creativity
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Citationwiruchnipawan, wannawiruch. 2015. Unexpected Distractions: Stimulation or Disruption to Creativity. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation examines when and how unexpected distractions stimulate or disrupt the creative process. Specifically, I argue that these distractions could introduce useful information and initiate a cognitive break that stimulates a fresh look at the creative task while allowing unconscious thought to process acquired information. Unexpected distractions are, however, disruptive once the new information, relevant or not to the creative task, prompts cognitive overload—the moment in which required cognitive resources exceed available cognitive resources for information processing. The creative process implicates two cognitive sub-processes, divergent thinking and convergent thinking, which influence the novelty and feasibility of the creative product, respectively. Divergent thinking, which is the process of generating new ideas, likely reaps the aforementioned benefits of unexpected distractions, but only until cognitive overload occurs, after which point additional distractions disrupt the forming of new ideas. On the other hand, convergent thinking, the process of deriving the best idea, should suffer from any level of distractions. First, the convergent process profits less from the unconscious associative processing of acquired information. Second, convergent thinking demands information that is directly related to the selected idea or the context in which that idea will be implemented, rendering information transmitted by unexpected distractions mostly irrelevant. Irrelevant information is particularly cognitively taxing and prone to cause cognitive overload. In the lab and online, I found an inverted u-shaped relationship between the frequency of unexpected distractions and the output of divergent thinking (operationalized as the novelty of generated ideas) and a negative relationship between the frequency of unexpected distractions and the output of convergent thinking (operationalized as the feasibility of selected ideas). I also found support for the first relationship and partial support for the second relationship using field data from an IT company in Thailand for which I developed measures for evaluating novelty and feasibility in software work. I discuss the implications of these findings for the literature on creativity, cognitive processing, and group brainstorming.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:17467526
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