Individual differences in rates of ideation:

Do more productive individuals produce a steadier flow of ideas?



P.A. Howard-Jones, School of Education, University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, UK



This paper describes a psychometric study of ideation that investigates possible relationships between overall performance and patterns of change in the rate of ideation. It has been reported that less-productive individuals should have steeper 'associative hierarchies' (Mednick, 1962). In this study it was hypothesised that such individuals should tend to produce many ideas initially but would 'dry up' quickly. More-productive individuals should tend to provide a more constant stream of ideas. A connectionist model of creative cognition has also been based upon these ideas (Martindale, 1995). In a study intended to validate this hypothesis, 48 volunteer subjects were asked to identify a diagram produced form randomly generated geometric shapes. The response times of each subject over a 6-minute period of studying the diagram were recorded. The number of ideas produced by the subjects was used as a criterion for categorising their performance as "More Productive" or "Less Productive". The ideation pattern of the two groups was then analysed to determine whether the less-productive subjects suffered a faster decrease in ideation rate than the more productive subjects. Results showed that less-productive individuals did, in general, suffer a faster fall-off in their productivity. The results support the Mednick's associative model and Martindale's connection models of creative cognition. Such models can be used to predict individual difference effects in ideation performance under different conditions, and the results are discussed in these terms.

This investigation forms part of ongoing research in the School of Education at UWIC into ideation. The overall aim of this research is to develop new teaching strategies that encourage children to be more productive in the generation of original and appropriate ideas. Both laboratory-based and classroom-based studies are carried out in the pursuit of this aim.

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