Don't wait to incubate: Immediate versus delayed incubation in divergent thinking

Kenneth Gilhooly, George Georgiou, Jane Garrison, Jonathan David Reston, Miroslav Sirota

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19 Citations (Scopus)


Previous evidence for the effectiveness of immediate incubation in divergent creative tasks has been weak, because earlier studies exhibited a range of methodological problems. This issue is theoretically important, as a demonstration of the effects of immediate incubation would strengthen the case for the involvement of unconscious work in incubation effects. For the present experiment, we used a creative divergent-thinking task (alternative uses) in
which separate experimental groups had incubation periods that were either delayed or immediate and that consisted of either spatial or verbal tasks. Control groups were tested without incubation periods, and we carried out checks for
intermittent conscious work on the target task during the incubation periods. The results showed significant incubation effects that were stronger for immediate than for delayed incubation. Performance was not different between
the verbal and spatial incubation conditions, and we found no evidence for intermittent conscious working during the incubation periods. These results support a role for unconscious work in creative divergent thinking, particularly in
the case of immediate incubation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)966-975
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number6
Early online date2 Mar 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Thinking
  • problem solving
  • creativity
  • incubation


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