Public Release: 

'That was my idea' -- group brainstorming settings and fixation

Research shows that group brainstorming methods may yield similar ideas and limit creativity

Wiley

ARLINGTON, TX--March 29, 2010--When people, groups, or organizations are looking for a fresh perspective on a project, they often turn to a brainstorming exercise to get those juices flowing. An upcoming study from Applied Cognitive Psychology suggests that this may not be the best route to take to generate unique and varied ideas.

The researchers from Texas A&M University show that group brainstorming exercises can lead to fixation on only one idea or possibility, blocking out other ideas and possibilities, and leading eventually to a conformity of ideas. Lead researcher Nicholas Kohn explains, "Fixation to other people's ideas can occur unconsciously and lead to you suggesting ideas that mimic your brainstorming partners. Thus, you potentially become less creative."

The researchers used AOL Instant Messenger as their electronic discussion format when conducting the experiments, which included groups of two, three, and four subjects. This study and other studies have also shown that taking a break (allowing for a mental incubation period in participants) can stem the natural decline in quantity (production deficit) and the variety of ideas, and encourage problem solving.

Therefore, group creativity may be an overestimated method to generate ideas and individual brainstorming exercises (such as written creativity drills) may be more effective. If ideas are to be shared in a group setting, members of the group need to be aware of this fixation phenomenon, and take steps to prevent conformity. This will lead to a more vibrant, fresh discussion and a wider range of possible solutions.

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This study is published in the April 2010 issue of Applied Cognitive Psychology. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article may contact scholarlynews@wiley.com.

To view the abstract for this article, please visit http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/123329584/abstract.

Article: "Collaborative fixation: Effects of others' ideas on brainstorming." Nicholas W. Kohn; Steven M. Smith. Applied Cognitive Psychology ; Published Online: March 29, 2010 (DOI: 10.1002/acp.1699).

Nicholas Kohn is a Post-doctoral Researcher of Psychology at the University of Texas at Arlington. His areas of research include fixation, and the study of social and cognitive influences on idea generation. He can be reached for questions at nkohn@uta.edu.

About the Journal: Applied Cognitive Psychology seeks to publish the best papers dealing with psychological analyses of memory, learning, thinking, problem solving, language, and consciousness as they occur in the real world. Applied Cognitive Psychology is an official journal of the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition (SARMAC). The aim of the Society is to promote the communication of applied research in memory and cognition within and between the applied and basic research communities. Professor Graham Davies is Applied Cognitive Psychology's Editor in Chief. Applied Cognitive Psychology can be accessed at http://www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/acp. For more information about SARMAC, please visit http://www.sarmac.org.

About Wiley-Blackwell: Wiley-Blackwell is the international scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly publishing business of John Wiley & Sons, with strengths in every major academic and professional field and partnerships with many of the world's leading societies. Wiley-Blackwell publishes nearly 1,500 peer-reviewed journals and 1,500+ new books annually in print and online, as well as databases, major reference works and laboratory protocols. For more information, please visit www.wileyblackwell.com or www.interscience.wiley.com.

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