How Hints Matter?

It is part of a design creativity research project funded by U.S. National Science Foundation, to improve the design of software through diagrams, to generate alternative solutions and to enhance creativity in the design of knowledge systems.

To explore design thinking, especially the conditions that promote creative design thinking. Unlike traditional insight problem solving, the design is a cycle of mini-insights, involving both divergent and convergent thinking. Designers move forward by changing the direction of their designs. This experience may sound familiar because it happens every day when we confront problems. Regardless of the domains, from art and architecture to everyday problems, the pressing question is how we get new ideas, particularly from things we have seen over and over again. How do we get new ideas? People transmit ideas from their minds into the world. Putting ideas out in the world allows for contemplation through various means such as sketching and verbal expression. But, at the same time, once we bring the idea into the world we can become fixated.

A series of studies has investigated divergent and convergent thinking using ambiguous design sketches: Does switching perspectives encourage divergent thinking? Does focusing on one thing induce fixation? Do hints matter in generating new ideas? We studied the phenomenon by evoking similar design experiences through an online experiment. We presented participants with 4 ambiguous sketches over and over, asking for a new interpretation each time they saw the sketch. Each sketch for 2 minutes. We used two kinds of hints, a bottom-up perceptual hint encouraging participants to mentally reconfigure the elements of the diagram; and a top-down conceptual hint encouraging them to think of new categories to conceive the sketch differently. There was some evidence that a top-down conceptual strategy is more effective than a bottom-up perceptual strategy to generate interpretations.

Selected Presentations and Publications

  • Thinking by Seeing Again and Again, Workshop on Cognitive Science and the Arts at the CogSci 2014 Quebec City, July 23, 2014.
  • Tversky, B., & Chou, J. Y. (2011). Creativity: depth and breadth. In Design Creativity 2010, Kobe. Pp. 209-214. Springer London.

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