Research Summary

Creativity is a trait valuable in all areas of life, from the meeting room to the easel. Especially in the workplace, there is high demand for innovative solutions to complex problems, often on a strict timeline or with high pressure. For example, an engineer may need to design a quick and effective fix for a faulty product that has already hit the market, with limited resources and time. Or, a computer network technician may need to fix an urgent network, internet, or security problem with minimal interruptions of the day-to-day workings of her department. Not to mention the pressure felt by artists to produce regularly high-quality works to maintain relevance or achieve prestige.

Despite prevalent situations where individuals are asked to demonstrate high creativity under high pressure, we know very little about how these two constructs are related. Thus, in my work, I aim to investigate the impact of performance pressure on creativity by leveraging knowledge from two main areas of research: performance under pressure and creative cognition.

Some of the driving questions include:

  • How does creative cognition differ from better understood forms of cognition, such as math problem-solving or proceduralized memory?
  • In what ways does pressure harm creativity? Does pressure harm all forms of creativity? Can we craft interventions to help creators under pressure?
  • Can current cognitive science theories inform our understanding of creative cognition? For example, can different aspects of creativity be considered Type 1 or Type 2 cognition? Can associative models shed light on the creative process?
  • What can brain imaging tell us about the processes involved in creative cognition, and how those processes affected by pressure?

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