People’s Creative Output Depends on the Initial Stimulus

In a series of experiments, the novelty of people’s creative output was affected by the novelty of the raw materials they were initially exposed to, says Justin M. Berg of The Wharton School. For example, students who were asked to come up with product ideas for a university bookstore tended to produce ideas that were rated higher in novelty (3.82 versus 3.05 on a 7-point novelty scale) if they were first shown a fishing pole rather than a whiteboard. Conversely, participants’ output tended to be more useful and less novel if they initially saw less-novel items, Berg says.

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