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Concept: Creative problem solving


Adults and children are spending more time interacting with media and technology and less time participating in activities in nature. This life-style change clearly has ramifications for our physical well-being, but what impact does this change have on cognition? Higher order cognitive functions including selective attention, problem solving, inhibition, and multi-tasking are all heavily utilized in our modern technology-rich society. Attention Restoration Theory (ART) suggests that exposure to nature can restore prefrontal cortex-mediated executive processes such as these. Consistent with ART, research indicates that exposure to natural settings seems to replenish some, lower-level modules of the executive attentional system. However, the impact of nature on higher-level tasks such as creative problem solving has not been explored. Here we show that four days of immersion in nature, and the corresponding disconnection from multi-media and technology, increases performance on a creativity, problem-solving task by a full 50% in a group of naive hikers. Our results demonstrate that there is a cognitive advantage to be realized if we spend time immersed in a natural setting. We anticipate that this advantage comes from an increase in exposure to natural stimuli that are both emotionally positive and low-arousing and a corresponding decrease in exposure to attention demanding technology, which regularly requires that we attend to sudden events, switch amongst tasks, maintain task goals, and inhibit irrelevant actions or cognitions. A limitation of the current research is the inability to determine if the effects are due to an increased exposure to nature, a decreased exposure to technology, or to other factors associated with spending three days immersed in nature.

Concepts: Psychology, Attention, Cognitive psychology, Cognition, Educational psychology, Problem solving, Attention restoration theory, Creative problem solving


BACKGROUND AND AIMS: The study shows placement of spinal cord stimulators using an Epiducer for placement of multiple cylindrical leads or single S-8 paddle leads. It also gives tips for problem-solving Epiducer use. OBJECTIVE: The study aims to suggest techniques that may help in solving commonly occurring difficulties with Epiducer use. DESIGN: This is a retrospective review. SETTING: These procedures were commonly performed in an outpatient surgery center or hospital setting. CONCLUSION: Some problems with Epiducer placement may occur. But these problem-solving techniques may help in troubleshooting.

Concepts: Retrospective, Problem solving, Problem, Troubleshooting, Failure analysis, Creative problem solving


Due to concerns about excessive sedentary exposure for office workers, alternate work positions such as standing are being trialled. However, prolonged standing may have health and productivity impacts, which this study assessed. Twenty adult participants undertook two hours of laboratory-based standing computer work to investigate changes in discomfort and cognitive function, along with muscle fatigue, movement, lower limb swelling and mental state. Over time, discomfort increased in all body areas (total body IRR[95% confidence interval]: 1.47[1.36-1.59]). Sustained attention reaction time (β=18.25[8.00-28.51]) deteriorated, while creative problem solving improved (β=0.89[0.29-1.49]). There was no change in erector spinae, rectus femoris, biceps femoris or tibialis anterior muscle fatigue; low back angle changed towards more lordosis, pelvis movement increased, lower limb swelling increased and mental state decreased. Body discomfort was positively correlated with mental state. The observed changes suggest replacing office work sitting with standing should be done with caution. Practitioner Summary Standing is being used to replace sitting by office workers however there are health risks associated with prolonged standing. In a laboratory study involving 2 hours prolonged standing discomfort increased (all body areas), reaction time and mental state deteriorated while creative problem-solving improved. Prolonged standing should be undertaken with caution.

Concepts: Cognition, Educational psychology, Change, Problem solving, Tibialis anterior muscle, Tibialis posterior muscle, Rectus femoris, Creative problem solving


This research investigates the paradox of creativity in autism. That is, whether people with subclinical autistic traits have cognitive styles conducive to creativity or whether they are disadvantaged by the implied cognitive and behavioural rigidity of the autism phenotype. The relationship between divergent thinking (a cognitive component of creativity), perception of ambiguous figures, and self-reported autistic traits was evaluated in 312 individuals in a non-clinical sample. High levels of autistic traits were significantly associated with lower fluency scores on the divergent thinking tasks. However autistic traits were associated with high numbers of unusual responses on the divergent thinking tasks. Generation of novel ideas is a prerequisite for creative problem solving and may be an adaptive advantage associated with autistic traits.

Concepts: Psychology, Cognition, Educational psychology, Autism, Thought, Problem solving, Creativity, Creative problem solving


Rather than replacing human labor, there is growing evidence that networked computers create opportunities for collaborations of people and algorithms to solve problems beyond either of them. In this study, we demonstrate the conditions under which such synergy can arise. We show that, for a design task, three elements are sufficient: humans apply intuitions to the problem, algorithms automatically determine and report back on the quality of designs, and humans observe and innovate on others' designs to focus creative and computational effort on good designs. This study suggests how such collaborations should be composed for other domains, as well as how social and computational dynamics mutually influence one another during collaborative problem solving.

Concepts: Algorithm, Human, Computer, Design, Problem solving, Problem, Creativity, Creative problem solving


Across 7 studies, we investigated the prediction that people underestimate the value of persistence for creative performance. Across a range of creative tasks, people consistently underestimated how productive they would be while persisting (Studies 1-3). Study 3 found that the subjectively experienced difficulty, or disfluency, of creative thought accounted for persistence undervaluation. Alternative explanations based on idea quality (Studies 1-2B) and goal setting (Study 4) were considered and ruled out and domain knowledge was explored as a boundary condition (Study 5). In Study 6, the disfluency of creative thought reduced people’s willingness to invest in an opportunity to persist, resulting in lower financial performance. This research demonstrates that persistence is a critical determinant of creative performance and that people may undervalue and underutilize persistence in everyday creative problem solving. (PsycINFO Database Record

Concepts: Philosophy of science, Thought, Knowledge, Cultural studies, Problem solving, Creativity, Finance, Creative problem solving


Substantial evidence suggests that mind-wandering typically occurs at a significant cost to performance. Mind-wandering-related deficits in performance have been observed in many contexts, most notably reading, tests of sustained attention, and tests of aptitude. Mind-wandering has been shown to negatively impact reading comprehension and model building, impair the ability to withhold automatized responses, and disrupt performance on tests of working memory and intelligence. These empirically identified costs of mind-wandering have led to the suggestion that mind-wandering may represent a pure failure of cognitive control and thus pose little benefit. However, emerging evidence suggests that the role of mind-wandering is not entirely pernicious. Recent studies have shown that mind-wandering may play a crucial role in both autobiographical planning and creative problem solving, thus providing at least two possible adaptive functions of the phenomenon. This article reviews these observed costs and possible functions of mind-wandering and identifies important avenues of future inquiry. (PsycINFO Database Record © 2013 APA, all rights reserved).

Concepts: Attention, Cognition, Educational psychology, Cost, Problem solving, All rights reserved, Reading comprehension, Creative problem solving


Despite recent efforts to characterize innovative individuals within a species, we still know very little about the ontogeny of innovation ability. A number of studies have found that innovation rates are correlated with personality traits, such as neophilia and exploration. Juvenile birds are frequently more neophilic and explorative, yet few studies have found evidence of age-related differences in innovative problem-solving success. Here, we show consistently higher innovation efficiency in juveniles of a wild, omnivorous parrot species across a variety of tasks and contexts. We tested 104 kaka (Nestor meridionalis), ranging in age from four months to 13 years. Twenty-four individuals participated in all three of our problem-solving tasks, two of which involved a familiar feeder and one an entirely novel apparatus. Juveniles were the most efficient problem-solvers in all three tasks. By contrast, the adults' success was context dependent and limited to the novel apparatus, which did not require modification of a pre-learned behavioural response. This suggests greater behavioural flexibility in the juvenile birds, who also showed higher persistence and exploratory diversity than adults. These traits may enable young kaka to discover efficient foraging techniques, which are then maintained throughout adulthood.

Concepts: Psychology, Invention, Creative problem solving, Kakapo, Parrot, Nestor, Kea, Parrots


This study examined the effects of exam length on student performance and cognitive fatigue in an undergraduate biology classroom. Exams tested higher order thinking skills. To test our hypothesis, we administered standard- and extended-length high-level exams to two populations of non-majors biology students. We gathered exam performance data between conditions as well as performance on the first and second half of exams within conditions. We showed that lengthier exams led to better performance on assessment items shared between conditions, possibly lending support to the spreading activation theory. It also led to greater performance on the final exam, lending support to the testing effect in creative problem solving. Lengthier exams did not result in lower performance due to fatiguing conditions, although students perceived subjective fatigue. Implications of these findings are discussed with respect to assessment practices.

Concepts: Psychology, Educational psychology, Mind, Thought, Problem solving, Creative problem solving, Test, Final examination


A common assumption in psychology, economics, and other fields holds that higher performance will result if extrinsic rewards (such as money) are offered as an incentive. While this principle seems to work well for tasks that require the execution of the same sequence of steps over and over, with little uncertainty about the process, in other cases, especially where creative problem solving is required due to the difficulty in finding the optimal sequence of actions, external rewards can actually be detrimental to task performance. Furthermore, they have the potential to undermine intrinsic motivation to do an otherwise interesting activity. In this work, we extend a computational model of the dorsomedial and dorsolateral striatal reinforcement learning systems to account for the effects of extrinsic and intrinsic rewards. The model assumes that the brain employs both a goal-directed and a habitual learning system, and competition between both is based on the trade-off between the cost of the reasoning process and value of information. The goal-directed system elicits internal rewards when its models of the environment improve, while the habitual system, being model-free, does not. Our results account for the phenomena that initial extrinsic reward leads to reduced activity after extinction compared to the case without any initial extrinsic rewards, and that performance in complex task settings drops when higher external rewards are promised. We also test the hypothesis that external rewards bias the competition in favor of the computationally efficient, but cruder and less flexible habitual system, which can negatively influence intrinsic motivation and task performance in the class of tasks we consider.

Concepts: Psychology, Educational psychology, Activity, Motivation, Unified Modeling Language, Problem solving, Reward system, Creative problem solving