- Widespread neural oscillations in the delta band dissociate rule convergence from rule divergence during creative idea generation
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- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB)
- Psychology Research Institute (PsyRes)
Amsterdam School of Economics Research Institute (ASE-RI)
Critical to creative cognition and performance is both the generation of multiple alternative solutions in response to open-ended problems (divergent thinking) and a series of cognitive operations that converges on the correct or best possible answer (convergent thinking). Although the neural underpinnings of divergent and convergent thinking are still poorly understood, several electroencephalography (EEG) studies point to differences in alpha-band oscillations between these thinking modes. We reason that, because most previous studies employed typical block designs, these pioneering findings may mainly reflect the more sustained aspects of creative processes that extend over longer time periods, and that still much is unknown about the faster-acting neural mechanisms that dissociate divergent from convergent thinking during idea generation. To this end, we developed a new event-related paradigm, in which we measured participants’ tendency to implicitly follow a rule set by examples, versus breaking that rule, during the generation of novel names for specific categories (e.g., pasta, planets). This approach allowed us to compare the oscillatory dynamics of rule convergent and rule divergent idea generation and at the same time enabled us to measure spontaneous switching between these thinking modes on a trial-to-trial basis. We found that, relative to more systematic, rule convergent thinking, rule divergent thinking was associated with widespread decreases in delta band activity. Therefore, this study contributes to advancing our understanding of the neural underpinnings of creativity by addressing some methodological challenges that neuroscientific creativity research faces.
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