Beliefs about Creativity
Evidence for an insight bias
October 17th, 2021
Via ScienceDirect: "Research finds that creative ideas are often generated via two cognitive pathways: persistence and insight. Persistence refers to the effortful, deliberate, and sustained search for creative solutions. In contrast, insight refers to the effortless and unexpected comprehension of new ideas or solutions, colloquially called the ‘A-ha!’ moment. People report both pathways in their subjective experiences of creativity and both pathways promote creative performance. Yet, emerging research suggests that people’s beliefs about the creative process do not reflect these dual pathways. It appears that people associate creativity with effortless insight and undervalue persistence; a phenomenon we refer to as an insight bias. We next present evidence for an insight bias, consider the mechanisms behind it, and discuss the implications of these (faulty) beliefs. [...]
The studies summarized above provide evidence that people undervalue persistence and overvalue insight. Understanding these (faulty) beliefs is important because they influence how people choose to engage in creative work. For instance, undervaluing persistence and believing one’s best ideas come early leads people to disengage from creative work more quickly, which limits creativity. Valuing insight leads people to expect more creativity when in the bathtub than at one’s workstation and to discount the value of others whose accomplishments draw on persistence rather than innate genius.
What causes the insight bias? One explanation relates to the subjective experience of idea generation itself. Specifically, the feeling of effortfulness experienced while generating ideas (also called metacognitive fluency). Generating ideas via insight feels less effortful and less mentally exhausting than generating ideas via persistence. This more pleasant experience of insight, versus persistence, leads people to think and feel more positively about insight. For example, the research where people underestimated how many ideas they would generate while persisting found that the feeling of effortfulness experienced during initial idea generation accounted for the discrepancy between predictions and performance. Similarly, people’s belief that creativity declines across an ideation session was explained by people’s pessimism about the difficulty of producing ideas over time. Future research should continue to test this and other mechanisms."