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Schemata Violation Increases Creative Cognition: the When and How

Final Report Summary - CREA.TA (Schemata Violation Increases Creative Cognition: the When and How.)

This research was conducted by a postdoctoral fellow Dr Malgorzata Goclowska at the University of Rochester in NY USA (with Professor Andrew Elliot as host), and at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands (with Professor Carsten De Dreu as host).

Project objective: The project investigated people’s reactions to novelty and to schema-violations, and how those reactions can facilitate and/or hinder creativity. Schema-violations are targets and objects that disconfirm schema - and stereotype-based expectancies. The goal of this project was to understand what facilitates a greater interest in and approach of schema-violations (over schema-consistencies) and of novelty, and whether favourable attitudes towards schema-violations and novelty can in turn carry over to greater creativity.

Research results: We looked at the link between creativity and people’s reactions to novelty and unexpectedness. A theoretical review of the literature suggested that people’s reactions to novel and expectancy-violating situations play a pivotal role in shaping human creativity (Gocłowska, Damian, & Mor, forthcoming). As part of this project we wanted to understand the link between personality traits and people’s reactions to schema-violations. We found that two psychological traits, (high) openness to experience and (low) need for closure/structure, associate with a greater preference for schema-violating (vs. schema-consistent) stimuli. We also found that individuals open to experience have a particular preference for schema-violating (vs. schema-consistent) stimuli because they find this type of stimuli interesting (Gocłowska, Baas, Elliot, Dreu, & De Dreu, 2017, Journal of Research in Personality). Secondly, we wanted to understand whether people’s preference for novelty and schema-violation associates with greater creativity and greater creative achievement. This was indeed the case: novelty seeking and people’s preference for schema-violations were linked to greater creativity (papers in preparation). Third, we looked at the creativity (paper in preparation) and leadership aspirations (Leicht, Gocłowska, Van Breen, de Lemus, & Randsley de Moura, 2017) of schema-violating individuals. Finally, as part of her training at the University of Rochester the RF participated in several projects to do with personality psychology and the psychology of motivation (Elliot, Aldhobaiban, Kobeisy, et al., 2016; Elliot, Aldhobaiban, Murayama, et al., 2016; Gocłowska, Aldhobaiban, et al., 2016).

Socioeconomic impact: When planning this research we argued that people’s tendencies to approach vs. avoid schema-violations may have strong links with creativity. Our project confirmed this notion and allowed us to identify psychological processes that are conducive to creativity. This project provides evidence that people’s preference for schema-violation and for novelty is linked to various types of creativity. The findings of this research suggest that increasing people’s preference for and interest in unexpectedness and novelty can be benefit creativity. The project helps scientists to gain a greater insight into the nature of creativity, and to understand when and why people like and approach or dislike and avoid novel and schema-violating targets (e.g. counter-stereotypic individuals) and ideas (e.g. unusual, paradigm-shifting innovations).