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Getting to the Novel Ideas: Exploring the Alternative Uses Test of Divergent Thinking

[+] Author Affiliations
Barry Kudrowitz, Caitlin Dippo

University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

Paper No. DETC2013-13262, pp. V005T06A013; 6 pages
doi:10.1115/DETC2013-13262
From:
  • ASME 2013 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 5: 25th International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology; ASME 2013 Power Transmission and Gearing Conference
  • Portland, Oregon, USA, August 4–7, 2013
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division, Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5592-8
  • Copyright © 2013 by ASME

abstract

The Alternative Uses Test is a measure of divergent thinking in which participants are asked to list non-obvious uses for a common object in a fixed amount of time. In this study, participants were asked to list alternative uses for a paperclip in three minutes. From a pool of over 2000 participants including engineering professionals and students, 293 were chosen and evaluated. Using infrequency of responses as a measure of novelty, it was found that participants that produced more responses had more novel responses and a higher average novelty score. Later responses were significantly more novel than early responses and unoriginality of responses decreased with quantity. On average, a participant would list 9 responses before arriving at highly novel responses. Participants that did not reach 9 responses in the study were likely to have few if any highly novel responses.

If this test maps to real world problem solving, it suggests that the first ideas we think of are likely to have been suggested already by others and thus not original. The results of this study can help restructure the format of the Alternative Uses Test.

Copyright © 2013 by ASME
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