Failed Retrieval Attempts Foster Generation of Novel Responses
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Novel, or uncommon, responses in idea generation, creative problem solving, and divergent thinking are difficult to generate because they experience reduced memory accessibility caused by blocking or fixation from common, pre-potent responses. Research has demonstrated that fixation in problem solving can be alleviated through memory inhibition by reducing accessibility of pre-potent responses serving as incorrect answers. Based on this finding, the present investigation tested whether failed retrieval attempts, such as those used to demonstrate retrieval-induced-forgetting, could reduce accessibility of pre-potent responses and alleviate fixation in category generation, resulting in increased generation of novel responses. Three experiments demonstrated greater average novelty of generated members of categories that received impossible retrieval practice, in which participants failed to retrieve a member, than for those that did not. These results offer potential avenues of study into mechanisms for improving divergent thinking and creative problem solving.
Angello, Genna Marie (2014). Failed Retrieval Attempts Foster Generation of Novel Responses. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from