A new paper from my lab in the Journal of Research in Personality examined how people answer creative thinking tasks. We found that common advice to focus brainstorming sessions on the number and not quality of ideas does not work for everyone. These results point to the need to re-evaluate ways to teach creative thinking.
We conducted two studies where participants were asked to complete creative thinking tasks. In the first study, college students were given two classic problems — coming up with different uses for a brick and a knife. Their responses were scored for the total number of ideas they generated (called fluency) and the originality of these ideas. Ideas considered original depart from the customary use of the object, such as a brick being a building material. A more original response could be to use a brick to mash garlic.
In the second study, high school students were asked to think of different ways they could improve their schools. This is a less abstract question and something students personally care about. Again, the responses were scored for the total number of ideas and their originality. The most common ideas (not original) were about later start times, while one of the original ideas suggested that teachers have YouTube channels where students could re-watch the lessons when studying.