Are the creative benefits of neurostimulation possible through behavioral interventions instead?

A number of neurostimulation methods, e.g., using electrical current, have been shown to improve to improve creative performance.  Such methods may be unsuitable for everyday design tasks.  One brain area that has been shown to be successfully stimulated is the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC). The dlPFC is also activated by performing tasks that require resolving conflict, e.g., the Stroop task.  Is it possible that performing the Stroop task and other tasks that involve conflict could serve as  interventions to increase creative performance?

See a 7-minute presentation by Alex Sahar – the lead author.

Sahar A, Farb N, Shu LH (2020) Mirroring Neurostimulation Outcomes Through Behavioral Interventions to Improve Creative Performance, Proceedings of the ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences & Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, 16-19 August 2020, St. Louis MO USA, Paper number IDETC2020-22557/19328. (DTM)

link to paper below:


Can improving access to our own memory also improve creative performance during concept generation?

Many argue that innovative ideas are often a combination of previous ideas – thus enhancing access to our own memories could improve creativity and concept generation outcomes.

Here’s a 7-minute presentation by lead author, Kamie Arabian.


Arabian MEK, Addis DR, Shu LH (2020) Memory and Idea Generation Applied to Product Repurposing, Proceedings of the ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences & Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, 16-19 August 2020, St. Louis MO USA, Paper number IDETC2020-22703/19325. (DTM)

Link to paper below:


Can a cup of coffee help you drive in a more environmentally friendly way?

What if this cup of coffee were shown as a graphical-dashboard display, where heavy braking and accelerating causes that cup of coffee to spill? In an online survey, 92 participants perceived the coffee-cup display as more effective than a dial-gauge display to influence them to adopt eco-driving practices.

Read more here:

Potvin-Bernal J, Hansma B, Donmez B, Lockwood P, Shu LH (2020) Influencing Greater Adoption of Eco-Driving Practices Using an Associative Graphical Display, ASME Journal of Mechanical Design, Vol. 142, No. 3 (031117). Paper No: MD-19-1436, doi:


Does Visual Fixation Affect Idea Fixation?

Does staring at a problem make it harder to solve? Where do we look before a moment of insight? Does visually fixating on stimuli for a design problem lead to fixation on presented features? Discovering the eye movements associated with increased creativity may inform effective methods of viewing design stimuli. The results of related eye-tracking research can also be drawn upon to infer the types of thinking reflected in specific eye movements. Thus, new insights may be gained by monitoring eye movements during creativity tasks, e.g., when using visual stimuli in the Alternative Uses Test (AUT). One eye-movement measure that can be studied is visual fixation, defined as spatially fixated eye movements within 0.5 degree of visual angle. Our research objective is to discover how visually fixating on pictorially represented objects may affect divergent thinking, as expressed by the ability to derive alternative uses for them. Our research questions, which this paper addresses in detail, are:

1. What eye-movement behaviors are observed in participants viewing visual stimuli?

2. Can eye movements reveal cognitive processes underlying divergent thinking?
Does Visual Fixation Affect Idea Fixation?

3. Can these insights be used to develop methods to enhance divergent thinking?

Read more here:

Kwon E, Ryan JD, Bazylak A, Shu LH (2019) Does Visual Fixation Affect Idea Fixation? Paper MD-19-1454, In press, Journal of Mechanical Design.

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