Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Stimulation of Individual Creativity in Electronic Brainstorming: Cognitive and Social Aspects

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Stimulation of Individual Creativity in Electronic Brainstorming: Cognitive and Social Aspects

Article excerpt

One of the most popular types of group creative activity is Osborn's (1957) brainstorming technique, which is a method of group problem solving and idea generation that can considerably increase both the quality and quantity of the generated ideas. In numerous experimental studies, however, shortcomings of the technique, such as evaluation apprehension, free riding, production blocking, and social matching, have been revealed (Litchfield, 2009; Nijstad & Stroebe, 2006). Despite the effects of inspiration and mutual emotional stimulation, creative performance in nominal groups in which participants work individually can be higher than in face-to-face brainstorming groups (Paulus, Kohn, Arditti, & Korde, 2013). However, some negative effects of face-to-face communication can disappear when participants exchange ideas in a computer-mediated way in an electronic brainstorming (EBS) session (Kerr & Murthy, 2009).

An essential factor in group creative performance is the characteristics of the ideas exchanged, because these affect the particular parameters of creativity of individuals involved in group activities. Of the numerous researchers on this topic, Dugosh and Paulus (2005) found a positive effect of common stimuli on idea generation when 40 stimulus ideas were shown to participants and a positive effect of rare stimuli when eight stimulus ideas had been shown to them. Further, Fink et al. (2012) found a stimulation effect on individual creativity via common and moderately creative stimuli.

The practical values of ideas exchanged can also have a potentially controversial influence on individual creative performance in a brainstorming session. Although they can lead to the generation of useful and appropriate ideas (Runco & Jaeger, 2012), they can also limit the originality of ideas generated, causing disconnection from reality (Acar & Runco, 2015). This disconnection can be manifested in the generation of absurd and inappropriate ideas that-although unusual-can positively influence others' idea generation.

I designed the experiment in this study to examine the impact of rare, common, and absurd stimulus ideas on individual creativity in an EBS session. Therefore, I proposed the following hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1: Rare stimulus ideas will positively influence individual creativity.

Hypothesis 2: Absurd stimulus ideas will positively influence individual creativity.


Participants and Design

Participants were 144 students at a Moscow high school (71 young women and 73 young men), aged from 15 to 19 years (M = 16.47, SD = 1.10). Participants were told that they were participating in a standard EBS session, and they were briefly instructed that they were required to produce original ideas about the given object when being exposed to others' ideas. Participants chose their form of identification (e.g., nickname, number, or real name) for use on the survey form.

The influence of idea exchange on individual creativity was assessed in an idea exposure paradigm. Common, rare, and absurd stimulus ideas were presented to participants on computer screens as being the ideas of other participants in the experiment.

Participants were randomly assigned either to groups in which the different types of stimuli were presented, or to the control group. Each group comprised 36 participants.


All of the participants performed the task to generate the maximum number of unusual applications for a wooden ruler within a given period of 6 minutes. Participants in the experimental groups performed this task while being exposed to 11 stimulus ideas one by one, which they read on computer screens.

Participants generated new ideas that they typed into a computer. The first stimulus idea was presented just before they started performing the task. A new stimulus idea appeared on the screen immediately after they added the next idea. If a participant did not type the next idea within 20 seconds, the next stimulus idea appeared on the screen. …

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