OMFix – Overcoming Mental Fixation by switching the internal spotlight: stochastic modeling of creative cognition in the lab and on the web

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The current transition to industry 4.0 increasingly requires employees to think flexibly and to combine concepts of different domains. At the same time, there is a strong need for basic research, to which this project is dedicated to.

The project is directed by Prof. Dietrich Albert and Prof. Tobias Ley and implemented by Dr. Paul Seitlinger. It comprises three studies that contribute to basic and applied-oriented research questions in the field of creative cognition (e.g., Benedek & Neubauer, 2013). The focus is on investigating the interplay of search processes in human memory and executive processing (e.g., Unsworth & Engle, 2007) to examine a central characteristic of creative achievements, namely overcoming mental fixation to combine previously dissociated thoughts (e.g., Mednick, 1962).

We utilize stochastic models of memory search (e.g., Albert, 1968; McGill, 1963; Polyn, Norman & Kahana, 2009) for the mathematical analysis of response protocols and estimating parameters representing psychological constructs involved in creative thought. We focus on parameters that represent psychological constructs of creative cognition. In particular, we are interested in parameters to represent a) temporal dynamics of retrieval from memory (e.g., Wixted & Rohrer, 1994) as well as b) executive processes (e.g., Unsworth & Engle, 2007) helping to activate/inhibit creative/uncreative thoughts. Beyond that, we apply the stochastic Context Maintenance and Retrieval (CMR) model (Polyn et al., 2009), to describe the role of context to overcome mental fixation. The CMR model assumes that search of memory is driven by internal context representations acting like a spotlight illuminating context-related memory items. We assume that high executive processing capacity corresponds to an individual’s flexibility in shifting the internal spotlight to continuously find new ideas and to overcome the inner state of mental fixation.

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Graz Partner: Institute of Interactive Systems and Data Science, Graz University of Technology, Austria/Europe

Duration: 01.10.2015 – 30.04.2018 (31 months)

Funding: Austrian Science Fund (FWF) Grant No.: P27709-G22

  • Total Budget: € 182.385,00
  • Total Funding: € 182.385,00
  • CSS Budget: € 182.385,00