Creativity as a Matter of Choice: Prior Experience and Task Instruction as Boundary Conditions for the Positive Effect of Choice on Creativity

Chua, Roy Yong-Joo; Iyengar, Sheena Sethi

This study investigates the effects of prior experience, task instruction, and choice on creative performance. Although extant research suggests that giving people choice in how they approach a task could enhance creative performance, we propose that this view needs to be circumscribed. Specifically, we argue that when choice is administered during problem solving by varying the number of available resources, the high combinatorial flexibility conferred by a large choice set of resources can be overwhelming. Through two experiments, we found that only individuals with high prior experience in the task domain and given explicit instruction to be creative produced more creative outcomes when given more choice. When either of these two conditions is not met (i.e., low prior experience or given non-creativity instruction), more choice did not lead to more creative performance. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.


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Journal of Creative Behavior

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February 23, 2010