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"When Diversity Helps or Hurts Creative Cognition: Effects of Counter-stereotypicality, Information Processing Motivation, and Regulatory Closure"

Final Report Summary - CREA.DIV (When Diversity Helps or Hurts Creative Cognition: Effects of Counter-stereotypicality, Information Processing Motivation, and Regulatory Closure)

Project Objective: The objective of this project was to test, under what conditions exposure to counter-stereotypes can influence creativity. The execution of the project began in September 2012. Throughout the duration of the project, the RF and the SC, with the help of Dr Matthijs Baas - and invited collaborator - conducted two pretests and eight studies, looking at the effects of exposure to counter-stereotypes.

Research Results: We began the project by establishing a research paradigm that would be used throughout the duration of the project. Using photo-shopped images, we developed an experimental tool that allowed us to manipulate exposure to stereotypic and counter-stereotypic individuals. We conducted two pre-tests to try out the tool, which confirmed that the images that we created are indeed counter-stereotypic, and that participants find them surprising. For an example of stereotypic and counter-stereotypic images that we created, see Figure 1 (see attachment).

We used this imagery to manipulate exposure to counter-stereotypes, across eight experiments. Early on, we found that exposure to stereotype-disconfirming images prompted creativity in individuals low in PNS (Personal Need for Structure), but decreased creativity in those high in PNS. This result was one that we had predicted in the grant proposal, and after combining this study with an earlier experiment, we published it in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (Goclowska, Baas, Crisp, & De Dreu, 2014). The paper argues, as hypothesized in in the grant proposal, that when need for structure is low, counter-stereotypes can prompt more creative thinking. This finding is in line with a previous paper, accruing from the RF’s PhD project, in which exposure to a counter-stereotypic female mechanic increased creativity in individuals low in PNS (Goclowska & Crisp, 2013).

This means that there is now strong evidence that, under low PNS, counter-stereotypes can prompt creativity. For instance forming impressions of a counter-stereotypic person (Goclowska & Crisp, 2013; Study 1 in Goclowska, Baas, Crisp, & De Dreu, 2014), as well as seeing imagery that contains individuals in counter-stereotypic settings (Study 2 in Goclowska, Baas, Crisp, & De Dreu, 2014), can improve creativity when need for structure is low. This effect was observed across a range of creativity measures: from the generation of multiple uses for an object (Goclowska & Crisp, 2013), through performance on an insight task (Goclowska, Baas, Crisp, & De Dreu, 2014; Study 1), to more divergent ideas generated when thinking of new names for a commercial product (Goclowska, Baas, Crisp, & De Dreu, 2014; Study 2).

To gain further understanding of the phenomenon, we conducted two studies to understand why, when PNS is low, counter-stereotypes improve creativity. These studies demonstrated that participants low in need for structure like and prefer counter-stereotypes, rather than stereotypes. We believe that this is the mechanism explaining why counter-stereotypes prompt creativity only when PNS is low. The data from these experiments is now being written-up (Goclowska, Baas, De Dreu, 2014a). Following the publication of that paper, we will also submit for publication review paper, discussing and summarising our research (Goclowska, Baas, & De Dreu, 2014b).

Throughout the project, we also investigated the various conditions under which counter-stereotypes can prompt creativity. In particular, several of our studies tested the idea that under approach (vs. avoidance) motivation, and in a positive (vs. negative) mood, counter-stereotypes will more strongly influence creativity. No support was found for this hypothesis so far, but it is possible that we will come back to this research question and run more experiments in the future.

Socioeconomic impact: When planning this research, we argued that increasing social and cultural diversity is a critical issue that Europe faces today, and that the exposure to counter-stereotypes, that comes with increasing societal diversity, has the potential to influence how people think and solve problems. In particular, we argued that counter-stereotypes may boost creativity. Our project found partial support for this idea: we found that individuals low in PNS, when exposed to inconsistencies, become more creative. However, we also found that individuals high in PNS – when exposed to counter-stereotypes – can experience performance detriments. In terms of socioeconomic impact, this means that any interventions attempting to expose people to new and unusual things, such as counter-stereotypes, need to take into account pre-existing individual differences. When it comes to diversity, it’s not practical to use a one-size-fits-all approach. Rather than that, different strategies need to be employed towards individuals who are low, or high in need for structure, to ensure that everyone benefits from exposure to counter-stereotypes in the best possible way.

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