The Different Role of Cognitive Inhibition in Early Versus Late Creative Problem Finding

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Previous research has suggested that ideas generated late in the creative process might require more executive control than those generated earlier. This in turn leads to the prediction that cognitive inhibition might play one role early in the process but a different role late in the process. The present investigation tested this prediction using a test of creative problem finding. Low cognitive inhibition was expected to facilitate an associative mode of processing, whereas high cognitive inhibition was expected to enable a deliberate, systematic mode of processing. An experiment involving 70 undergraduate students indicated that individuals’ cognitive inhibition was correlated with fluency and flexibility, but not originality, on the problem-finding tasks. An interaction indicated that low cognitive inhibition enhanced originality initially, but later in the process, high cognitive inhibition was beneficial. Limitations of this investigation and future directions are explored.

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