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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Different modes of thought during the creative process Ellamil, Melissa Marie


Creativity is most often defined as the ability to produce ideas that are both novel and useful. Consistent with this twofold definition, psychological theories have suggested that creativity involves a twofold process characterized by a generative (or associative) component that facilitates the production of novel ideas, and an evaluative (or analytic) component that enables the assessment of these ideas as to their usefulness. To investigate this, the present study employed a novel paradigm that was specifically designed to allow for separately examining the generative and evaluative components of the creative process. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to identify the contribution of particular brain regions to creative generation and evaluation. Participants were presented with short book descriptions and, using an fMRI-compatible drawing tablet, designed corresponding book cover illustrations while alternating between the generation and evaluation of ideas. Creative generation and evaluation were associated with recruitment of distinct neural circuits, with generation preferentially recruiting medial temporal lobe regions, and evaluation showing joint recruitment of executive and default network regions. These findings suggest that the medial temporal lobe may play an important role in the generation of novel ideas, and that creative evaluation may extend beyond deliberate and cognitive analytical processes supported by executive resources to include spontaneous, affective, and visceroceptive analytical processes. In summary, separating and alternating between generative and evaluative modes during a creative task helped to provide a better characterization of the contributions of creativity-related brain areas to the creative process, which had previously only been inferred indirectly. The results of this study suggest that creative thinking recruits a unique configuration of neural processes not typically used together in more traditional tasks.

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