Essay, Research Paper: Creativity Study


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Creativity is one of the most difficult mental functions to study. While a
concrete definition remains illusive, it has been established as a multifaceted
phenomenon (Kitto, Lok & Rudowicz, 1994). One facet that is an important
component of creative potential is divergent thinking (Vosburg, 1998), this is
the ability to generate several alternative solutions to a problem. The mental
processing involved occurs in such a way as to activate as many mental
representations as possible, maintaining only a weak connection to the original
stimulus (Molle, Marshall, Wolf, Fehm & Born, 1999). One of the more popular
methods for assessing creative potential then, is through the administration of
divergent thinking tests (Mumford, Marks, Connelly , Zaccaro & Johnson,
1998). In these tests people are requested to generate as many alternative
answers as possible to a series of ill-defined, open-ended problems (Brown,
1989). The number of ideas used in answering the problem are counted, and can be
taken as a performance measure of creative thinking. On the other side of the
scale is convergent thinking. Here, very strong mental associations are
maintained which upon activation come to a single conclusion that can only be
either right or wrong , with a clear connection between the mental
representation and the original stimulus (Molle et al., 1999). Thus, two
opposite modes of thinking seem to exist, each serving a different function and
each having tests that tap into this function. What is of interest, however is
the fact that little physical evidence has been collected to support these
models. Finding an actual physical correlate for these theories is the purpose
if this exploratory research. If creativity exists, then it should have some
biological foundation. One way to study this is with the use of the
electroencephalogram (EEG). The dimensional complexity of the EEG can be used to
establish a differentiation of divergent and convergent thought. This can occur
because the measure of dimensional complexity of the EEG activity is sensitive
enough to discriminate cortical processing invoked by tasks of divergent
creative thinking as compared with tasks requiring convergent analytical thought
(Molle at al., 1999). According to Hebb, as stated in Molle et al. (1999), an
assembly of cells represents the functional processing unit of the brain. These
assemblies represent closed systems with freer flow of information within a
system, as opposed to between systems (Molle et al. 1999). It follows from this
that two or more units can be active at the same time, while maintaining
autonomy. The number of cell assemblies activated can be taken as an indicator
of how complex the neuronal computations of the brain are at that precise moment
(Molle et al. 1999). This complexity is manifested in the EEG activity. It can
be assumed that the dimensional complexity of the EEG indicates the complexity
of neural dynamics underlying the EEG time series. Studies by Lutzenberger,
Preissl, and Pulvermuller (1995) as stated by Molle et al. (1999), suggests that
a task of divergent thinking requires a larger number of cell assemblies
compared to a task of convergent thinking, where only one right answer has to be
found. This difference should be illustrated through the EEG’s dimensional
complexity. The study to be undertaken will look at the EEG dimensional
complexity of subjects as they perform both divergent thought tasks and
convergent thought tasks. Of interest is whether a substantial difference in
recordings will be apparent. Does divergent thinking require more complex
cortical processing? Is so, in what area of the brain is this taking place.?
These are the two main questions at the heart of this study. METHOD Participants
As the aim of this study is to look at normal brain function, volunteers will be
selected from a first year psychology class. Fifteen males and fifteen females
will be chosen. Procedure The experiment will occur in an electrically shielded
room. Participants will sit in a reclining chair, while the experimenter sits
beside them just outside their visual field. They will be given four verbal
tasks. Two of the tasks will require divergent thinking, and two will require
convergent thinking. The divergent tasks will resemble those administered by
Molle et al (1999). Logic and arithmetic skills will have to be employed for the
convergent tasks. These tasks will consist of textbook type problem solving
questions, where only one right answer exists. In this experiment, these tasks
are the independent variable. The EEG, which is the dependent variable of
interest, will be monitored from a separate room. The recording sites on the
subjects would be on the frontal, central, parietal and occipital cortical
regions. Half the subjects will do the convergent task first, and the other half
would do the divergent task first. They will be given 30s to complete each task.
Between task switches, each subject will be asked to relax and think of being in
some pleasing environment. EEG recordings during this time will be used as an
extra comparison to those seen during the tasks. Subjects will also be asked to
fixate on a point on the opposite wall. This request will help to rule out
mental activity that results from visual stimuli. If tasks using divergent and
convergent thought invoke different cortical processes, this distinction should
be made apparent by the EEG’s dimensional complexity. The different
frequencies of brain waves will have varying levels of activity. Divergent
thinking performance will be scored according to a pre-established order.
Namely, points will be awarded for the number of responses given. The convergent
task will either be right or wrong. The scoring is being kept simple because the
experiment is of an exploratory nature. The primary purpose being to seek out
any sort of relationship between brain activity and creative thought processes.
EXPECTED RESULTS Like the study conducted by Molle et al. (1999), it is expected
that divergent thinking will likely increase the dimensional complexity of the
EEG in comparison to convergent thinking. Areas where there was a significant
difference included the frontal, parietal and occipital regions (Molle et al.,
1999). It is also expected that divergent thinking will have higher cortical
activity in the central, parietal and occipital regions in comparison to mental
relaxation (Molle et al. 1999). A feel for the nature of the biology of creative
thinking is lacking so far, and is the primary reason for this study.
Preliminary research of this nature is needed before any specific studies can be
seriously undertaken. Research into the physiological footing of creative
thought has the potential to be of great aid to the field of creative
psychology, lending much needed validity to many of the ideas being
theorized.BibliographyBrown, R.T. (1989). Creativity. What are we to measure? In J.A. Glover, R.R.
Ronning, & C.R. Reynolds (Eds.). Handbook of creativity (pp.3-32). New York:
Plenum. Kitto, J., Lok, D., & Rudowicz, E. (1994). Measuring creative
thinking: an activity-based approach. Creativity Research Journal,7, 59-69.
Molle,M., Marshall, L., Wolf, B., Horst, L., & Born, J. (1999). EEG
complexity and performance measures of creative thinking. Psychophysiology, 36,
95-104. Mumford, M.D., Marks, M.A., Connelly, M.S., Zaccaro, S.J., &
Johnson, J.F. (1998). Domain-based scoring of divergent-thinking tests:
validation evidence in an occupational sample. Creativity Research Journal, 11,
151-163. Vosburg, S.K., (1998). The effects of positive and negative mood on
divergent-thinking performance. Creativity Research Journal, 11, 165-172.
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