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Although anecdotes that creative thoughts often arise when one is engaged in an unrelated train of thought date back thousands of years, empirical research has not yet investigated this potentially critical source of inspiration. We used an incubation paradigm to assess whether performance on validated creativity problems (the Unusual Uses Task, or UUT) can be facilitated by engaging in either a demanding task or an undemanding task that maximizes mind wandering. Compared with engaging in a demanding task, rest, or no break, engaging in an undemanding task during an incubation period led to substantial improvements in performance on previously encountered problems. Critically, the context that improved performance after the incubation period was associated with higher levels of mind wandering but not with a greater number of explicitly directed thoughts about the UUT. These data suggest that engaging in simple external tasks that allow the mind to wander may facilitate creative problem solving.
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Psychological Science
The online version of this article can be found at:
DOI: 10.1177/0956797612446024
2012 23: 1117 originally published online 31 August 2012Psychological Science
Benjamin Baird, Jonathan Smallwood, Michael D. Mrazek, Julia W. Y. Kam, Michael S. Franklin and Jonathan W. Schooler
Inspired by Distraction : Mind Wandering Facilitates Creative Incubation
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DOI: 10.1177/0956797612446024
Anecdotes of individuals solving problems after relinquishing
the effort to solve them date back millennia. Indeed, many
influential scientific thinkers—including Newton, Poincaré,
and Einstein—claim to have had their moments of inspiration
while engaged in thoughts or activities not deliberately aimed
at solving the problem they were trying to solve. A key ques-
tion that arises from such examples is whether engaging in any
type of unrelated cognition increases the frequency of creative
solutions, or whether the thoughts that yield such insights have
specific features.
One common example of thinking that is unrelated to an
overt goal is the internally generated thought that occupies
one’s attention during mind wandering (Smallwood & Schooler,
2006). Several lines of research suggest that mind wandering
could be linked to enhanced creativity, particularly for prob-
lems that have been previously encountered. First, individuals
with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (which is known
to be associated with mind wandering; e.g., Shaw & Giambra,
1993) tend to score higher than individuals without ADHD on
laboratory measures of creativity (White & Shah, 2006) and on
questionnaire-based assessments of achievement in creative
areas (e.g., music, visual arts; White & Shah, 2011).
Second, focused deliberation on problems can under mine
creativity, whereas distraction can enhance creativity
(Dijksterhuis & Meurs, 2006). Third, a recent meta-analysis
of the conditions that maximize incubation effects (i.e.,
enhanced creative problem solving following a break) found
that the benefits of incubation intervals are greater when indi-
viduals are occupied by an undemanding task than when they
engage in either a demanding task or no task at all (Sio &
Ormerod, 2009). Given that mind wandering is more frequent in
undemanding tasks than in demanding tasks (e.g., Mason et al.,
2007; Smallwood, Nind, & O’Connor, 2009), this finding sug-
gests that one feature that may characterize successful incuba-
tion intervals could be the opportunity for mind wandering.
Finally, a recent investigation found that when individuals
engaged in REM sleep during an incubation interval, they
showed enhanced integration of unassociated information
in the service of creative problem solving (Cai, Mednick,
Corresponding Author:
Benjamin Baird, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Building
429, Room 102, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9660
Inspired by Distraction: Mind Wandering
Facilitates Creative Incubation
Benjamin Baird
, Jonathan Smallwood
, Michael D. Mrazek
Julia W. Y. Kam
, Michael S. Franklin
, and
Jonathan W. Schooler
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara;
for Social Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany;
Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia
Although anecdotes that creative thoughts often arise when one is engaged in an unrelated train of thought date back
thousands of years, empirical research has not yet investigated this potentially critical source of inspiration. We used an
incubation paradigm to assess whether performance on validated creativity problems (the Unusual Uses Task, or UUT) can
be facilitated by engaging in either a demanding task or an undemanding task that maximizes mind wandering. Compared
with engaging in a demanding task, rest, or no break, engaging in an undemanding task during an incubation period led
to substantial improvements in performance on previously encountered problems. Critically, the context that improved
performance after the incubation period was associated with higher levels of mind wandering but not with a greater number
of explicitly directed thoughts about the UUT. These data suggest that engaging in simple external tasks that allow the mind
to wander may facilitate creative problem solving.
creativity, consciousness, insight
Received 12/26/11; Revision accepted 3/29/12
Research Report
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1118 Baird et al.
Harrison, Kanady, & Mednick, 2009). Although REM sleep is
very different from mind wandering, the fact that the formation
of associative networks during dreaming can lead to incubation
effects is certainly consistent with the prospect that the loose
associative processes of mind wandering (e.g., Smallwood,
Obonsawin, & Heim, 2003) might have similar effects.
However, caution must be taken in drawing firm conclu-
sions from the results of these studies; to date, no published
study has directly compared the effects of incubation intervals
of systematically varying difficulty within a single experi-
ment, nor has any study directly assessed the occurrence of
mind wandering during incubation. Furthermore, there are at
least two competing interpretations of the beneficial effects of
tasks with a light cognitive load: Easy tasks may simply allow
individuals a greater opportunity to explicitly think about pre-
vious problems, or easy tasks may encourage a global mental
set (e.g., Förster, Friedman, & Liberman, 2004) that might
facilitate creativity independently of any specific benefit of
The study reported here used an incubation paradigm to
compare the effects of interpolated tasks that systematically
varied in their levels of attentional demand and thus in their
conduciveness to mind wandering. The tasks were interpo-
lated into the Unusual Uses Task (UUT), a classic and widely
used measure of divergent thinking (Guilford, 1967). The
UUT was selected because it yields particularly consistent and
robust incubation effects (Ellwood, Pallier, Snyder, & Gallate,
2009; Sio & Ormerod, 2009), unlike convergent-thinking
tasks (such as the Remote Associates Task), which have been
more prone to empirical inconsistencies (Vul & Pashler, 2007).
The UUT requires participants to generate as many unusual
uses as possible for a common object, such as a brick, in a set
amount of time. The originality of the responses is taken as an
index of creative thinking (e.g., Milgram & Milgram, 1976;
Torrance, 2008; Wallach & Kogan, 1965).
Following the procedure in Cai et al. (2009), we assessed
participants’ performance on UUT problems that were pre-
sented both before and after the incubation interval (repeated
exposure) and on UUT problems that were presented for the
first time after the incubation interval (new exposure). These
exposure conditions allowed us to distinguish between two
different types of improvements in problem solving: incuba-
tion effects (repeated-exposure condition), which correspond
to enhanced processing of previously encountered informa-
tion, and general increases in creative problem solving (new-
exposure condition), which could correspond to general
improvements in creative thinking or to other general facilita-
tive effects (e.g., arousal or fatigue).
We had four hypotheses for this study. First, we expected
that participants would exhibit more mind wandering in
an interpolated undemanding task than in an interpolated
demanding task, which would replicate previous findings that
attentional demand reduces mind wandering (Smallwood
et al., 2009). Given these anticipated differences in mind wan-
dering, we hypothesized, second, that the creative benefits of
incubation would be greater for participants who engaged in
the undemanding task than for participants who engaged in the
demanding task and, third, that this effect would not be attrib-
utable to a greater number of explicit thoughts about the previ-
ously encountered problems. Finally, we hypothesized that
performance would selectively improve on repeated-exposure
problems (i.e., not on new problems) following the undemand-
ing task, which would indicate that the performance improve-
ments resulted from an incubation process rather than a general
increase in creative problem solving.
One hundred forty-five participants (35 males, 110 females)
completed the experiment (age range: 19–32 years) as partial
fulfillment of a course requirement. Informed consent was
obtained from all participants, and ethical approval for the
study was obtained from the University of California, Santa
Barbara, institutional review board.
Baseline UUT. Participants were randomly assigned to work
on two UUT problems (2 min per problem) in which they were
instructed to list as many unusual uses as possible for each
stimulus. Participants typed their responses on a computer,
directly into a text box that automatically expired after 2 min.
Incubation. After completing the baseline UUT, participants
were assigned to one of four between-subjects conditions, using
a counterbalanced design. In three of these conditions (demand-
ing task, undemanding task, and rest), the baseline UUT was
followed by an incubation period that lasted 12 min. Partici-
pants in the demanding-task condition performed a 1-back
working memory task that places a strong constraint on top-
down attention, whereas those in the undemanding-task condi-
tion performed a choice reaction time task (0-back) requiring
infrequent responses. Studies have shown that tasks without a
working memory load elicit more mind wandering than tasks
with a working memory load (e.g., Smallwood et al., 2009). In
the rest condition, participants were asked to sit quietly during
the incubation interval. Participants in the fourth condition (no
break) did not receive a break from the UUT.
Immediately following the incubation interval in the
demanding-task, undemanding-task, and rest conditions, we
administered a commonly used self-report measure of mind
wandering (e.g., Barron, Riby, Greer, & Smallwood, 2011;
Matthews et al., 1999) in order to confirm differences in mind-
wandering frequency between the two task conditions. (The
questionnaire was administered following the rest interval in
the rest condition in order to maintain consistency across incu-
bation conditions.) This questionnaire asks participants to rate
how often they engaged in different types of task-unrelated
thought, such as considering personal worries or future or past
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Mind Wandering Facilitates Creative Incubation 1119
events (rating scale from 1 to 5, with higher scores indicating
higher levels of mind wandering). To assess explicit thoughts
about the creativity task, we had participants in these three
conditions complete a separate questionnaire on the frequency
of their thoughts about the creativity problems during the incu-
bation interval.
Postincubation UUT. After the incubation interval (or fol-
lowing the baseline UUT, in the case of the no-break condi-
tion), participants were informed that they would work on the
UUT again. Four UUT problems (2 min per problem) were
presented in a random order: two repeat problems (repeated-
exposure condition) that were identical to the problems pre-
sented at baseline and two randomly assigned new problems
(new-exposure condition).
Assessing propensity to mind-wander. At the end of the
experiment, all participants completed the Daydreaming Fre-
quency subscale of the Imaginal Process Inventory (IPI),
which assesses individuals’ general propensity to mind-
wander (Singer & Antrobus, 1972).
Interpolated tasks. Stimuli for the demanding and unde-
manding tasks were the digits from 1 through 9, which were
presented serially (in quasirandom order) in the center of a
computer screen for 1,000 ms each; each digit was followed
by a 1,500-ms fixation cross. In both of these tasks, nontargets
were black numbers that required no response, and nontargets
occurred frequently, whereas targets were infrequent. In the
undemanding task, targets were colored numbers, and partici-
pants had to determine whether each target stimulus was even
or odd. In the demanding task, targets were colored question
marks, and participants had to determine whether the stimulus
immediately preceding each target was even or odd. Partici-
pants in both conditions received a short practice session with
UUT. Following the procedure used by Wallach and Kogan
(1965), we pooled responses to each UUT stimulus across the
sample, and points were assigned for statistically unique
Percentage improvement on the UUT was calcu-
lated separately for each problem type (repeated exposure,
new exposure) and was compared across conditions (unde-
manding task, demanding task, rest, no break). This was calcu-
lated as [(postincubation UUT score – baseline UUT score)/
(baseline UUT score)] × 100 (see Cai et al., 2009, for a similar
analytic method). Percentage improvement was calculated at
the individual level and then averaged for each condition.
Although uniqueness scoring is the most standard method
of scoring divergent-thinking tasks (e.g., Milgram & Milgram,
1976; Torrance, 2008; Wallach & Kogan, 1965), it has been
criticized (Silvia et al., 2008) on the grounds that it may con-
found creativity with fluency (e.g., participants may receive
high creativity scores simply by virtue of generating a large
number of responses). Therefore, to assess fluency, we had
two independent raters blind to condition tabulate the number
of nonredundant responses each participant generated for each
UUT stimulus. The interrater classification of nonredundant
responses was highly reliable (α = .95). For each individual,
the two raters’ scores were averaged to yield a measure of
Mind wandering
Participants in the undemanding-task condition reported sig-
nificantly greater mind wandering (M = 2.47, SD = 0.66) in the
retrospective questionnaire than did participants in the
demanding-task condition (M = 2.15, SD = 0.67), F(1, 72) =
4.04, p < .05, η
= .05. This result replicates previous findings
that working memory load decreases the frequency of mind
An analysis of the demanding-task, undemanding-
task, and rest conditions revealed no group differences in par-
ticipants’ retrospective reports about the degree to which they
had been explicitly thinking about the previous creativity task,
F(2, 106) = 0.09, p = .90, η
= .002.
Incubation-task performance measures
No significant difference in accuracy was observed between
the undemanding task (M = .87, SD = .10) and the demanding
task (M = .88, SD = .20), F(1, 72) = 0.06, p = .80, η
= .001.
Response time to targets was significantly faster in the
demanding task (M = 518.39 ms, SD = 117.55 ms) than in
the undemanding task (M = 648.97 ms, SD = 48.21 ms), F(1,
72) = 38.93, p < .001, η
= .35. Faster response times were
expected in the demanding task because responses were based
on the previous (already-encoded) digit, whereas the unde-
manding task required participants to first encode the target
digit and then respond. This difference in response times
reflects the key difference in the structure of the two tasks: The
demanding task required that the identity of nontarget stimuli
be encoded, whereas the undemanding task did not require
that participants attend to nontarget stimuli.
UUT uniqueness scores
We first analyzed the UUT uniqueness scores using a mixed-
model analysis of variance (ANOVA) with exposure condition
(repeated exposure, new exposure) as a repeated measures fac-
tor and incubation condition (undemanding task, demanding
task, rest, no break) as a between-subjects factor. An Exposure
Condition × Incubation Condition interaction emerged, F(1,
141) = 4.98, p < .01, η
= .10. To further explore this effect, we
used univariate ANOVAs to analyze incubation-condition dif-
ferences in repeated-exposure and new-exposure UUT unique-
ness scores.
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1120 Baird et al.
Repeated-exposure condition. There was a significant
effect of incubation condition in the repeated-exposure condi-
tion, F(1, 144) = 4.99, p < .01, η
= .10. Participants who
engaged in an undemanding task during the incubation inter-
val displayed significantly greater improvement in UUT
uniqueness scores for repeated-exposure problems compared
with participants who engaged in a demanding task (p < .01),
a period of rest (p < .01), or no break (p < .01). No significant
difference in improvement was observed between participants
who received no break and those who engaged in either a
demanding task (p = .35) or a period of rest (p = .30); thus, no
incubation effect was observed in the latter two conditions
(see Fig. 1).
New-exposure condition. No incubation-condition differ-
ences were observed for improvement in uniqueness scores
for new problems, F(1, 144) = 1.01, p = .39, η
= .02 (Fig. 2).
No significant difference was observed between participants
who received no break and those who engaged in an unde-
manding task (p = .21), a demanding task (p = .70), or rest
(p = .95). Thus, there was no significant incubation effect in
any incubation condition for the new-exposure problems.
UUT fluency
Fluency scores for the repeated-exposure problems did not dif-
fer significantly between incubation conditions, F(1, 144) =
1.15, p = .39, η
= .02. This result rules out the possibility that
between-condition differences in creativity as indexed by
uniqueness scores were a result of confounding fluency and
Individual differences in mind wandering and
UUT uniqueness scores
Scores on the Daydreaming Frequency subscale of the IPI
positively correlated with UUT uniqueness scores for both
repeated-exposure problems, r = .22, p < .05, and new-
exposure problems, r = .20, p < .05. This result provides pre-
liminary evidence that individuals who mind-wander more
frequently in their daily lives may be more creative in
Although research has suggested that taking a break can facili-
tate creativity, the mechanism of this incubation effect has
remained unclear and has been the source of considerable
empirical research and theoretical debate (e.g., Dijksterhuis &
Meurs, 2006; Smith & Blankenship, 1989; Yaniv & Meyer,
1987). The study reported here demonstrated that taking a
break involving an undemanding task improved performance
on a classic creativity task (the UUT) far more than did taking
a break involving a demanding task, resting, or taking no
break. Notably, this improvement was observed only for
repeated-exposure problems, which demonstrates that it
resulted from an incubation process rather than a general
increase in creative problem solving. Together, these data cor-
roborate, within a single experiment, the conclusion of a recent
meta-analysis (Sio & Ormerod, 2009) showing that incubation
effects were larger in studies in which individuals engaged in
an undemanding interpolated task than in studies that included
a demanding interpolated task or a rest period.
Our data support the notion that specific types of unrelated
thought facilitate creative problem solving. Even though the
act of encoding information in working memory was unrelated
to the solutions of the creativity problems, no incubation effect
was observed in the demanding-task condition. Moreover, the
undemanding-task condition was not associated with increased
frequency of thoughts explicitly about the creativity problems,
but was characterized by high levels of mind wandering. Thus,
our data indicate that creative problem solutions may be facili-
tated specifically by simple external tasks (i.e., tasks not
related to the primary task) that maximize mind wandering.
The observation that performance selectively improved for
repeated-exposure problems (and not for new problems) indi-
cates that engaging in a task conducive to mind wandering
does not lead to general increases in creative problem-solving
ability. However, performance on both repeated-exposure and
Undemanding Demanding Rest No Break
Improvement on UUT (%)
Incubation Condition
Fig. 1. Improvement in Unusual Uses Task (UUT) uniqueness scores (post-
in cubation performance relative to baseline performance) for repeated-
exposure problems as a function of incubation condition. Error bars indicate
standard errors of the mean.
Undemanding Demanding Rest No Break
Improvement on UUT (%)
Incubation Condition
Fig. 2. Improvement in Unusual Uses Task (UUT) uniqueness scores
(postincubation performance relative to baseline performance) for new-
exposure problems as a function of incubation condition. Error bars indicate
standard errors of the mean.
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Mind Wandering Facilitates Creative Incubation 1121
new problems positively correlated with individuals’ general
propensity to mind-wander in everyday life (as assessed by the
IPI). This observation provides preliminary evidence that
there may be a relationship between individual differences in
mind wandering and creativity. Although this observation is
intriguing, it should be noted that this study lacked assess-
ments for a variety of other individual differences measures
(most notably, measures of inhibition) that could in principle
account for the association between propensity to mind-
wander and performance on the creativity task. An important
direction for future research will be to conduct a more thor-
ough assessment of the relationship between individual differ-
ences in mind wandering and creativity while controlling for
other factors that could contribute to this relationship.
Further research is needed to determine precisely why the
unrelated thoughts that occur during mind wandering uniquely
facilitate incubation. One possibility is that mind wandering
enhances creativity by increasing unconscious associative pro-
cessing, as predicted by the spreading-activation account of
incubation (e.g., Yaniv & Meyer, 1987; see also Dijksterhuis
& Meurs, 2006). A second possibility derives from recent neu-
roimaging work indicating that executive and default networks
interact during mind wandering (Christoff, Gordon, Small-
wood, Smith, & Schooler, 2009). Interactions between these
networks are observed relatively rarely in cognitive neurosci-
ence (although see Baird, Smallwood, & Schooler, 2011;
Gerlach, Spreng, Gilmore, & Schacter, 2011); considering that
activations in both networks are observed prior to successful
solution of insight problems (Kounios et al., 2008; Kounios
et al., 2006), engaging in tasks conducive to mind wandering
could contribute to incubation by creating a situation in which
default and executive systems mutually contribute to associa-
tive processing. Neurocognitive investigations of the brain
activations that occur during successful incubation intervals
might profitably explore this issue.
Anecdotal accounts of the inception of creative ideas have
long implicated mind wandering in the creative process. The
findings reported here provide arguably the most direct evi-
dence to date that conditions that favor mind wandering also
enhance creativity. From a theoretical perspective, this
research also helps to establish at least one benefit from
engaging in this otherwise seemingly dysfunctional mental
state. Although mind wandering may be linked to compro-
mised performance on an external task (Barron et al., 2011;
McVay & Kane, 2009) and may be a signature of unhappiness
(Killingsworth & Gilbert, 2010), it may also serve as a founda-
tion for creative inspiration.
We thank Steve Fiore for helpful discussion and James Schlegel,
Alex Weis, and Adam Haik for assistance in conducting the research.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The authors declared that they had no conflicts of interest with
respect to their authorship or the publication of this article.
This research was supported by the John Templeton Foundation
under Grant No. 24329, awarded to Jonathan W. Schooler. Benjamin
Baird is supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate
Research Fellowship under Grant No. DGE-0707430. Michael D.
Mrazek and Michael S. Franklin are supported through Office of
Education Grant No. R305H030235, awarded to Jonathan W.
Schooler and Jonathan Smallwood.
1. Following the procedure used by Wallach and Kogan (1965), we
categorically assigned statistically unique responses a score of 1.
Because problems were repeated in our incubation design, responses
appearing up to two times across the sample received points. An
alternative scoring method using a graded scale (from 1 to 5;
S. Fiore, personal communication, January 25, 2011) yielded nearly
identical results.
2. As noted, we also administered the mind-wandering questionnaire
following the rest interval. The score on the retrospective mind-
wandering scale in the rest condition (M = 2.35, SD = 0.57) was not
significantly different from the score on this scale in either the
undemanding-task condition (p = .44) or the demanding-task condi-
tion (p = .19), although this comparison is difficult to interpret
because the rest condition included no primary task to which internal
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... In support of Mehta et al.'s interpretation, defocused attention (the ability to consider several ideas at the same time) (Kaufman, Kornilov, Bristol, Tan & Grigorenko, 2010) and mind-wandering (Baird et al., 2012) have both been found to improve creativity. Baird et al. (2012) found that taking a break from undemanding tasks, compared to breaks from demanding tasks and no breaks led to greater mind-wandering, which improved originality on the AUT after repeated exposure to the problem. ...
... In support of Mehta et al.'s interpretation, defocused attention (the ability to consider several ideas at the same time) (Kaufman, Kornilov, Bristol, Tan & Grigorenko, 2010) and mind-wandering (Baird et al., 2012) have both been found to improve creativity. Baird et al. (2012) found that taking a break from undemanding tasks, compared to breaks from demanding tasks and no breaks led to greater mind-wandering, which improved originality on the AUT after repeated exposure to the problem. To further support the benefits of distraction on divergent thinking, it has been found that when distracting information is relevant to creativity, it can help to boost performance (Carpenter, Chae & Yoon, 2020). ...
... 43). This links back to abstract thinking (Mehta et al., 2012), defocused attention (Kaufman et al., 2010) and mind-wandering (Baird et al., 2012) as individuals should not rely on fixed strategies to solve problems and generate ideas. ...
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Creativity has become a favourable skill to develop in higher education due to its value in society. Ambient noise during creative performance has traditionally been regarded as an environmental stressor and distractor, but recent findings suggest a positive impact of ambient noise on creative performance. It is still unclear what drives these inconsistent findings and whether individual differences between students explain the differential impact of noise on their performance. This study investigated the impact of ambient noise on divergent thinking performance in undergraduates during the COVID-19 pandemic, when common learning spaces were restricted and people were instructed to work from home. It also explored how cognitive flexibility (e.g., the ability to switch between different tasks and explore different strategies to problems) interacted with the impact of noise. Forty-two undergraduates completed an adult computer-based version of the Dimensional Card Change Sort task (DCCS) (a measure of cognitive flexibility) in silence, and the Alternative Uses Task (a measure of divergent thinking) in silence and in ambient noise displayed through headphones. On average, participants gave more ideas in the presence of ambient noise than in silence, but these ideas were not more original. Furthermore, the impact of noise interacted with cognitive flexibility. Participants who were more efficient at the DCCS (suggesting better cognitive flexibility) gave more ideas in noise. These findings can help to inform educational institutes and students on the influence the physical environment might have on divergent thinking.
... According to Erwin and Wise (2002), low effort represents the most salient obstacle to accurately estimating a person's abilities (see also Wise 2015a). This conclusion was drawn based on engaging an "invalid" response vector in the assessment of a person's abilities, as is the case for random responding and attempts to guess (Wise 2019(Wise , 2020a(Wise , 2020b and wandering (Baird et al. 2012;Szpunar et al. 2013). For this reason, several ideas have been put forth aimed at improving the accuracy and validity of personal attributes, some of them focusing on examining the quality aspects of response times (Wise et al. 2020). ...
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The goal of the present study was to extend earlier work on the estimation of person theta using maximum likelihood estimation in R by accounting for rapid guessing. This paper provides a modified R function that accommodates person thetas using the Rasch or 2PL models and implements corrections for the presence of rapid guessing or informed guessing behaviors. Initially, a sample of 200 participants was generated using Mplus in order to demonstrate the use of the function with the full sample and a single participant in particular. Subsequently, the function was applied to data from the General Aptitude Test (GAT) and the measurement of cognitive ability. Using a sample of 8500 participants, the present R function was demonstrated. An illustrative example of a single participant, assumed to be either a rapid responder or a successful guesser, is provided using MLE and BME. It was concluded that the present function can contribute to a more valid estimation of person ability.
... Previous research using a similar procedure of UUT suggested that mind wandering during incubation between two answer sessions improved the uniqueness scores of repeated problems. 29 Therefore, viewing the real and artificial plants may not have evoked mind wandering more than in the no-object condition in this study. In addition, it is possible that viewing the books required more attention, and mind wandering was suppressed, resulting in a lower improvement in creativity, as compared with the no-object condition. ...
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Plants improve indoor environmental quality as a visual factor and enhance occupants' overall well‐being. However, research on the mechanisms by which plants improve human cognitive function is limited. This study examined the characteristics of eye movement while viewing indoor plants and their relationship with the cognitive benefits of plants. Thirty students performed cognitive tasks in four desktop conditions: no objects, real plants, artificial plants, and books. Eye movements while viewing plants during rest times in the reading span task (RST), which requires working memory, were characterized by a lower number of fixations, frequent dispersion of fixation points, and a higher number of blinks. Females showed higher RST scores under the real plant condition than under the no‐object condition. These results are consistent with the assumption that plants require lower cognitive effort and better restoration of attention capacity. In addition, in the real plant condition, females showed higher RST scores than males, and only females showed higher creativity scores than those in other conditions. Therefore, gender differences in the cognitive benefits of plants have been suggested. This study provides new insights into the effects of indoor plants on occupants' cognitive functions by quantifying visual perception processes using eye‐tracking technology. This study examined the characteristics of eye movement while viewing indoor plants and their relationship with the cognitive benefits of plants. Results of eye tracking and task performance were consistent with the assumption that plants require lower cognitive effort and better restoration of attention capacity. In addition, gender differences in the cognitive benefits of plants have been suggested.
... The human mind spends a great deal of time on thoughts unrelated to current tasks, known as task-unrelated thoughts (TUTs; Smallwood & Schooler, 2015). Past research has highlighted the benefits of TUTs via their role in important functions such as future planning (Baird et al., 2011) and creativity (Baird et al., 2012). However, TUTs can also disrupt task performance in daily life (e.g., Kam & Handy, 2014;McVay et al., 2009). ...
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Task-unrelated thoughts (TUTs) are frequent distractions from our everyday tasks, which can reduce productivity and safety during task performance. This necessitates the examination of factors that modulate TUT occurrence in daily life. One factor that has previously been implicated as a source of TUT is personally salient concerns. External factors such as news media serve as cues for these concerns, potentially increasing TUT occurrence. However, this has not been thoroughly examined in everyday life settings. We thus utilized Ecological Momentary Assessment to survey participants throughout the day for ten days, on their TUTs and news consumption in two separate studies. Study 1 focused on the impact of news related to the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic, as a common and global concern. We found that TUT occurrence was significantly predicted by COVID-19 news consumption, such that TUT occurrence increased with COVID-19 news consumption. To extend these findings, we implemented Study 2 using similar methods, but focusing on the consumption of news media in general. TUT occurrence was predicted by general news consumption, with an increase in reports of TUT following consumption of news media in general. We thus extended the association found between TUT and COVID-19-related news in Study 1, to any news topic in Study 2. We speculate that the increase in TUTs was due to heightened salience of current concerns, cued by the news. These findings highlight the importance of considering when we choose to consume news media and the value of examining contextual factors when studying TUTs in daily life.
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The goal of this article is to review work on mind wandering, metacognition and creativity in order to consider their relationship with cognitive flexibility. I introduce a model of the role that mind wandering and metacognition have in the generation and exploration of novel ideas and products in the creative process. I argue that managing the interaction between metacognition and mind wandering is the main role of cognitive flexibility in creativity. Furthermore, I claim that balancing the influence of metacognition during the generation and exploration of pre-inventive structures is a quintessential part of creativity, probably in almost any domain. Thus, I advance a general framework that can be applied to understanding how creators monitor and think about their own cognition when they engage in the generation and exploration of ideas. Additionally, I discuss the evolution of controlled and spontaneous cognition and metacognitive judgements during the development of a creative person.
Studies suggest that internally oriented cognitive processes are central to creativity. Here, we distinguish between intentional and unintentional forms of mind wandering and explore their behavioral and neural correlates. We used a sample of 155 healthy adults from the mind-brain-body dataset, all of whom completed resting-state fMRI scans and trait-level measures of mind wandering. We analyzed intentional and unintentional mind wandering tendencies using self-report measures. Next, we explored the relationship between mind wandering tendencies and creativity, as measured by a divergent thinking task. Finally, we describe patterns of resting-state network connectivity associated with mind wandering, using graph theory analysis. At the behavioral level, results showed a significant positive association between creativity and both intentional and unintentional mind wandering. Neuroimaging analysis revealed higher weighted degree connectivity associated with both forms of mind wandering, implicating core regions of the default network and the left temporal pole. We observed topological connectivity differences within the default network: intentional mind wandering was associated with degree connectivity in posterior regions, whereas unintentional mind wandering showed greater involvement of prefrontal areas. Overall, the findings highlight patterns of resting-state network connectivity associated with intentional and unintentional mind wandering, and provide novel evidence of a link between mind wandering and creativity.
This study explores the relationship between creative activity and creative achievement with a focus on the moderating role of dispositional self-regulation. On a large sample (N = 687), we demonstrated robust links between activity and achievement but also found that these associations are moderated by self-regulation. Moreover, the relationship was not only strong in terms of effect size (rs ≥0.50) but followed a necessary-yet-not-sufficient pattern: creative achievement was impossible when activity was low, yet high activity did not guarantee achievement. We discuss theoretical and practical consequences of these findings.
The problems associated with modern management activities (stress, self-awareness, etc.), in particular their impact on the efficiency of employees, are considered. We suggested the use of meditation and mindfulness practices as an effective means of overcoming these factors. A historical retrospective of the origin and spread of meditation in the countries of the Ancient East (India, China, Korea, Japan, etc.) is given. The main spread of meditation was due to the teachings of Buddhism, the essence of which is to understand the nature of man, to understand the need to get rid of everything that hinders its spiritual improvement. From the practice of Buddhist meditation in the late 80's of XX century formed a mindfulness-approach, the author of which is a professor at the University of Massachusetts John Kabat-Zinn, who sought opportunities to integrate this practice, excluding the religious aspect, in the practice of healing. This is how the secular practice of mindfulness emerges. Studies show that regular mindfulness practices help develop emotional intelligence and empathy in particular, and the positive impact of the mindfulness approach on the ability to concentrate improves memory and helps to cope more effectively with tasks. It is important to note that the practice of meditation promotes the formation of tolerance and peaceful coexistence of people with different views. We described examples of companies that have already introduced meditation practice among managers and employees (Google, McKinsey & Co, Intel) and the benefits derived from it. There is also a critique of the use of this approach, due to the fact that mindfulness "heals" the consequences rather than the causes, as well as the emergence of the concept of McMindfulness, which means the use of meditation, intentionally or unintentionally, for selfish purposes. We noted that speaking about the introduction of meditation and mindfulness in the activities of the organization, the important role of corporate culture that has developed in the company. The conclusions suggest that meditation can benefit both managers and their subordinates, but in itself, it only forms an intention that a person must further realize through real action.
The “costs” of task-unrelated thought (often referred to as mind-wandering) on performance in educational contexts have received growing theoretical and empirical attention in the last decade. Published articles on task-unrelated thought in educational contexts usually point out two important claims: 1) that task-unrelated thought occurs often during learning and 2) that task-unrelated thought shares a negative relationship with learning outcomes. However, the corresponding rates and effect sizes reported in the literature have been quite variable to date. We thus adopted a multi-level meta-analytic approach in order to provide baseline metrics for the frequency of task-unrelated thought in educational contexts and its relationship with learning outcomes across different learning tasks and assessments. Our analysis suggests that students are off-task about 30% of the time during educationally relevant activities, and the average relationship between task-unrelated thought and learning outcomes was in line with a small-to-medium practical effect, -.27. No differences were observed between learning tasks and various moderators. The average rates and correlation values reported in this meta-analysis can be used as a benchmark for future research aiming to assess task-unrelated thought in education.
Aim. To analyze studies on the influence of digital environment on cognitive development of schoolchildren and students. Material and methods. To achieve this aim, pedagogical research methods were used, which include work with literature on the stated topic, analysis of their content, logical generalization, citation, bibliographic listing, and annotation were used. An important role was played by generalization method and identification of patterns of longterm digital environment influence on a person. R e sults . An analysis of the literature has shown that digital environment influence on cognitive development of schoolchildren and students is the subject of research by many authors. One group of scientists considers the digital environment to be a neutral factor in relation to younger generation cognitive function. But, in parallel, studies are being conducted in which scientists has the opposite position. This group includes Russian and Western scientists from Harvard, Oxford, Manchester, Sydney Universities and King’s College London. Over the past twenty years, from 1998 to 2018, they have conducted studies on the impact of electronic devices and the Internet on cognitive functions of the younger generation. In total, 139 papers were published, in which the authors studied the effect of digital environment on cognitive changes from the standpoint of psychology, psychiatry, neurobiology, and other sciences. These studies proved that digital environment affects, first of all, the change in the brain, which acts as a bioplatform for the formation of cognitive functions in schoolchildren and students. And a change in cognitive functions cannot but affect the cognitive processes of attention, memory, thinking, as well as the skills necessary for cognition. Conclusion . The presented data from Russian and foreign studies revealed facts proving that the digital environment is a factor that changes the cognitive development in children, adolescents and students. The use of the Internet as an ultra-easy way to obtain information leads to the fact that a person blurs the boundaries between his own capabilities and the capabilities of electronic devices, attributing to himself their superpowers.
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After an initial period of unsuccessful work at solving a problem, a subject might either continue to work uninterruptedly or put the problem temporarily aside, returning to it later. The elusive laboratory phenomenon called “incubation” refers to superior performance for those subjects who return to the problem after a delay rather than working continuously on the problem. The forgetting-fixation hypothesis states that correct solutions are made inaccessible during initial problem solving when incorrect solutions are mistakenly retrieved. Forgetting (or decreased accessability) of fixated material should make correct solutions relatively more accessible, thus leading to incubation. Four experiments in the present study found incubation effects using a set of picture-word problems called rebuses. Misleading clues were initially presented with some of the problems, to induce fixation artificially. Greater forgetting occurred at retest for groups showing the greatest incubation effects, consistent with the forgetting-fixation hypothesis.
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Examined were the relationships between task‐unrelated thoughts (TUTs), self‐reported sensation seeking, retrospective self‐reported personality characteristics, laterality, eye dominance, and allergies in college students who were diagnosed in childhood as attention deficit/hyperactive disordered (ADHD) and in four control groups (high‐ and low‐activity males and females). Both spontaneous and deliberate TUTs were reported during a vigilance task. Left‐eye dominance was related to increased childhood hyperactive behaviors and to spontaneous TUTs. Of the five groups, subjects diagnosed as ADHD had more spontaneous TUTs and false alarms, whereas those subjects reporting high‐activity characteristics as children gave more deliberate TUTs and fewer false alarms, and low‐activity subjects responded with the fewest TUTs and false alarms. These results are consistent with the interpretation that in a boring task ADHD children have higher levels of nonconscious processing and poor inhibitory control and that these factors produce greater frequencies of spontaneous intrusive thoughts.
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Divergent thinking is central to the study of individual differences in creativity, but the traditional scoring systems (assigning points for infrequent responses and summing the points) face well-known problems. After critically reviewing past scoring methods, this article describes a new approach to assessing divergent thinking and appraises its reliability and validity. In our new Top 2 scoring method, participants complete a divergent thinking task and then circle the 2 responses that they think are their most creative responses. Raters then evaluate the responses on a 5-point scale. Regarding reliability, a generalizability analysis showed that subjective ratings of unusual-uses tasks and instances tasks yield dependable scores with only 2 or 3 raters. Regarding validity, a latent-variable study (n=226) predicted divergent thinking from the Big Five factors and their higher-order traits (Plasticity and Stability). Over half of the variance in divergent thinking could be explained by dimensions of personality. The article presents instructions for measuring divergent thinking with the new method. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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This study used event-related potentials to explore whether mind wandering (task-unrelated thought, or TUT) emerges through general problems in distraction, deficits of task-relevant processing (the executive-function view), or a general reduction in attention to external events regardless of their relevance (the decoupling hypothesis). Twenty-five participants performed a visual oddball task, in which they were required to differentiate between a rare target stimulus (to measure task-relevant processes), a rare novel stimulus (to measure distractor processing), and a frequent nontarget stimulus. TUT was measured immediately following task performance using a validated retrospective measure. High levels of TUT were associated with a reduction in cortical processing of task-relevant events and distractor stimuli. These data contradict the suggestion that mind wandering is associated with distraction problems or specific deficits in task-relevant processes. Instead, the data are consistent with the decoupling hypothesis: that TUT dampens the processing of sensory information irrespective of that information's task relevance.
Numerous anecdotal accounts exist of an incubation period promoting creativity and problem solving. This article examines whether incubation is an empirically verifiable phenomenon and the possible role therein of nonconscious processing. An Idea Generation Test was employed to examine (a) whether an incubation effect occurred and (b) the impact of different types of break on this effect. In the Idea Generation Test, two groups of participants were given a distracting break, during which they completed either a similar or an unrelated task, and a third group worked continuously (N = 90). The Idea Generation Test was validated against established measures of cognitive ability and personality, and was found to exhibit variance distinct from those marker tests. Most important, results demonstrated that having a break during which one works on a completely different task is more beneficial for idea production than working on a similar task or generating ideas continuously. The advantage afforded by a break cannot be accounted for in terms of relief from functional fixedness or general fatigue, and, although it may be explicable by relief from task-specific fatigue, explanations of an incubation effect in terms of nonconscious processing should be (re)considered.
Previous research has suggested that adults with ADHD perform better on some measures of creativity than non-ADHD adults (White & Shah, 2006). The present study replicated previous findings using a standardized measure of creativity (the Abbreviated Torrance Test for Adults, Goff & Torrance, 2002) and extended previous research by investigating real-world creative achievement among adults with ADHD. Results indicated that adults with ADHD showed higher levels of original creative thinking on the verbal task of the ATTA and higher levels of real-world creative achievement, compared to adults without ADHD. In addition, comparison of creative styles using the FourSight Thinking Profile (Puccio, 2002) found that preference for idea generation was higher among ADHD participants, whereas preference for problem clarification and idea development was greater among non-ADHD participants. These findings have implications for real-world application of the creative styles of adults with and without ADHD.
This study applies a theoretical approach to understanding creativity of ADHD individuals in terms of inhibitory control and its relative import in two aspects of creativity: divergent and convergent thinking. We compared adults with and without ADHD on the Unusual Uses Task (divergent thinking) and the Remote Associates Test (convergent thinking), and a measure of executive inhibitory control, semantic inhibition of return. ADHD individuals outperformed non-ADHD individuals on the Unusual Uses Task, but performed worse than non-ADHD on the Remote Associates Test and the semantic IOR task. The relationship between ADHD and creative ability was mediated, in part, by differences in inhibition.
Given that as much as half of human thought arises in a stimulus independent fashion, it would seem unlikely that such thoughts would play no functional role in our lives. However, evidence linking the mind-wandering state to performance decrement has led to the notion that mind-wandering primarily represents a form of cognitive failure. Based on previous work showing a prospective bias to mind-wandering, the current study explores the hypothesis that one potential function of spontaneous thought is to plan and anticipate personally relevant future goals, a process referred to as autobiographical planning. The results confirm that the content of mind-wandering is predominantly future-focused, demonstrate that individuals with high working memory capacity are more likely to engage in prospective mind-wandering, and show that prospective mind-wandering frequently involves autobiographical planning. Together this evidence suggests that mind-wandering can enable prospective cognitive operations that are likely to be useful to the individual as they navigate through their daily lives.