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

Mar 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.

Explore further: Child burn effects far reaching for parents

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

Mindjet boosts online collaboration with Catalyst

Oct 08, 2009

US technology firm Mindjet has unleashed a Catalyst technology platform that "attacks a major problem" in business by helping turn online brainstorming sessions into real-world results.

NASA Seeks Ideas For New Prize Challenges

Sep 28, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- The Innovative Partnerships Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington is offering an opportunity for the public to help shape the prize challenges the agency offers to America's future citizen-inventors.

Recommended for you

Child burn effects far reaching for parents

2 hours ago

Parents of burn victims experience significant psychological distress for at least three months after the incident and may compromise the post-operative recovery of their child, WA research has found.

Internet use may cut retirees' depression

2 hours ago

Spending time online has the potential to ward off depression among retirees, particularly among those who live alone, according to research published online in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences an ...

Classifying cognitive styles across disciplines

2 hours ago

Educators have tried to boost learning by focusing on differences in learning styles. Management consultants tout the impact that different decision-making styles have on productivity. Various fields have ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Turning off depression in the brain

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...

Proper stem cell function requires hydrogen sulfide

Stem cells in bone marrow need to produce hydrogen sulfide in order to properly multiply and form bone tissue, according to a new study from the Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry ...

There's something ancient in the icebox

Glaciers are commonly thought to work like a belt sander. As they move over the land they scrape off everything—vegetation, soil, and even the top layer of bedrock. So scientists were greatly surprised ...

Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

Up to now, HONO, also known as nitrous acid, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. ...