'That was my idea' -- Group brainstorming settings and fixation

March 29, 2010

When people, groups, or organizations are looking for a fresh perspective on a project, they often turn to a brainstorming exercise to get those juices flowing. An upcoming study from Applied Cognitive Psychology suggests that this may not be the best route to take to generate unique and varied ideas.

The researchers from Texas A&M University show that group brainstorming exercises can lead to fixation on only one idea or possibility, blocking out other ideas and possibilities, and leading eventually to a conformity of ideas. Lead researcher Nicholas Kohn explains, "Fixation to other people's ideas can occur unconsciously and lead to you suggesting ideas that mimic your brainstorming partners. Thus, you potentially become less creative."

The researchers used AOL Instant Messenger as their electronic discussion format when conducting the experiments, which included groups of two, three, and four subjects. This study and other studies have also shown that taking a break (allowing for a mental incubation period in participants) can stem the natural decline in quantity (production deficit) and the variety of ideas, and encourage problem solving.

Therefore, group creativity may be an overestimated method to generate ideas and individual brainstorming exercises (such as written creativity drills) may be more effective. If ideas are to be shared in a group setting, members of the group need to be aware of this fixation phenomenon, and take steps to prevent conformity. This will lead to a more vibrant, fresh discussion and a wider range of possible solutions.

More information: "Collaborative fixation: Effects of others' ideas on brainstorming." Nicholas W. Kohn; Steven M. Smith. Applied Cognitive Psychology ; Published Online: March 29, 2010, DOI:10.1002/acp.1699

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Self-harm, suicide attempts climb among US girls, study says

November 21, 2017
Attempted suicides, drug overdoses, cutting and other types of self-injury have increased substantially in U.S. girls, a 15-year study of emergency room visits found.

Car, stroller, juice: Babies understand when words are related

November 20, 2017
The meaning behind infants' screeches, squeals and wails may frustrate and confound sleep-deprived new parents. But at an age when babies cannot yet speak to us in words, they are already avid students of language.

Simple EKG can determine whether patient has depression or bipolar disorder

November 20, 2017
A groundbreaking Loyola Medicine study suggests that a simple 15-minute electrocardiogram could help a physician determine whether a patient has major depression or bipolar disorder.

Non-fearful social withdrawal linked positively to creativity

November 20, 2017
Everyone needs an occasional break from the social ramble, though spending too much time alone can be unhealthy and there is growing evidence that the psychosocial effects of too much solitude can last a lifetime.

Cultural values can be a strong predictor of alcohol consumption

November 20, 2017
Countries with populations that value autonomy and harmony tend to have higher average levels of alcohol consumption than countries with more traditional values, such as hierarchy and being part of a collective. This new ...

A walk at the mall or the park? New study shows, for moms and daughters, a walk in the park is best

November 17, 2017
Spending time together with family may help strengthen the family bond, but new research from the University of Illinois shows that specifically spending time outside in nature—even just a 20-minute walk—together can ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.