Incubation and Creativity: Do Something Different

Kenneth Gilhooly, George Georgiou, Ultan Devery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


The experiment reported here investigated interactions between the type of creative task (verbal or spatial) and the type of incubation activity (verbal or spatial) on creative performance. The experiment used a verbal creative divergent thinking task (Alternative Uses) and a spatial creative task (Mental Synthesis). After 5 minutes of conscious work on Alternative Uses or Mental Synthesis, experimental groups had 5-minute incubation periods which involved either spatial (Mental Rotation) or verbal tasks (Anagrams). Following incubation, the experimental participants resumed their main task for a further 5 minutes. Control groups undertook Alternative Uses or Mental Synthesis for 10 minutes without any incubation periods. Significant incubation effects were found overall and there were interactions in that spatial incubation benefited verbal fluency and verbal-rated creativity, and verbal incubation benefited spatial-task fluency and spatial-rated creativity but not vice versa. The results supported a role for unconscious work during incubation periods in creative thinking tasks and did not support the hypotheses that incubation effects are due to selective forgetting or attention shifting
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-149
JournalThinking and Reasoning
Issue number2
Early online date12 Dec 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Incubation effects
  • Creativity
  • problem solving


Dive into the research topics of 'Incubation and Creativity: Do Something Different'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this