Research Seminar: 28th March 2017

A preference for the uncanny benefits creativity

A popular view is that people are “wired” to dislike and avoid things novel and unexpected, because such events and situations signal potential threat and danger (Jonas et al., 2014; Noordewier & Breugelmans, 2013). But at many points in history, and in many contexts, an ability to approach and explore unexpectedness has also proven functional, and highly desirable.

That some people value and approach things new and unexpected is apparent in their fascination with groundbreaking innovations (Noppers, Keizer, Bockarjova, & Steg, 2015), surrealist art (Swami, Pietschnig, Stieger, Nader, & Voracek, 2012), or foreign lands and cultures (Brandt, Chambers, Crawford, Wetherell, & Reyna, 2015; Crisp & Turner, 2011; Pittinsky & Montoya, 2009).

In this research we aim to understand whether and when schema-violations – targets or situations that disconfirm our schema- and stereotype- based expectancies – can foster greater creativity.

In Study 1 & 2 we investigate what appraisal processes (surprise, interest) and personality antecedents (openness to experience, need for structure) regulate people’s attraction (vs. aversion) to schema-violations.

In Study 3 & 4 we look at whether people’s preference for schema-violating (over schema-consistent) stimuli associates with greater creativity (divergent thinking and lifelong creative achievements), and whether it explains the seminal association of openness to experience and creativity.

Finally, in Studies 5-7 we demonstrate that exposure to schema-violations can increase creative performance – conditional on people’s openness to schema-violating stimuli.



Małgorzata A. Gocłowska, University of Amsterdam
(In collaboration with Matthijs Baas, Carsten De Dreu, Andrew Elliot, and Richard Crisp)

2.00pm to 3.00pm in TB 06