Cognitive Affective Models

A more recent approach to affect and creativity has been within a cognitive-affective framework. Research has investigated very specifically how affect influences cognitive processes important in creativity. Much of the research within this framework has used a mood induction paradigm. A specific mood state is induced by having participants watch a film, receive a gift, or think about a memory that is happy or sad. Mood induction provides a way of altering affect states so that the effect on cognitive processes can be observed.

A growing body of research has found that induced affect facilitates creative thinking. Alice Isen has carried out a series of important, carefully controlled studies in the mood induction area. She and her colleagues found that positive affect induction resulted in more creative problem solving when compared to control groups. Other researchers found similar results with a variety of creativity measures. Isen concluded that the underlying mechanism is that positive affect cues positive memories and a large amount of cognitive and affective content. This process results in defocused attention and a more complex cognitive context. This, in turn, results in a greater range of associations and interpretations.

What about negative affect? In general, induced negative affect has had no effect on creative problem solving, As the researchers pointed out, it is possible that the negative affect that was aroused (e.g., by a film of the Holocaust) was too extreme, and that less extreme conditions of negative affect should be explored. A few studies suggest that milder forms of negative affect could facilitate some kinds of problem solving tasks. Different types of affect may have different effects on various dimensions of problem-solving.

In a recent meta-analysis of 25 years of mood-creativity research, Baas, DeDreu, and Nijstad concluded that a number of variables are involved in this complex area of mood and creativity. Specific mood types (not just positive and negative) and aspects of those moods must be considered. They concluded that positive moods do produce more creativity than neutral moods. But this is true for positive moods like happiness that are activating and associated with approach motivation. It is not true for positive but deactivating mood states like relaxation. They point out that an interesting practical implication of this finding is that relaxing in a bathtub or on the beach may not be conducive to creative thinking. How the task is framed is also important. Positive moods lead to more creativity when the task is framed as enjoyable and intrinsically rewarding and to less creativity when the task is framed as serious and extrinsically rewarding. As for negative affect, in general, deactivating negative mood states like sadness were not associated with creativity, but activating negative moods like fear with avoidance motivation were associated with lower creativity. However, there are individual studies like those by Kaufmann that do find positive relationships between negative affect and creativity. Bass, DeDreu, and Nijstad concluded that research should continue that investigates very specific mood states on specific types of creativity tasks under various conditions. We need to learn about the underlying mechanisms that account for the mood-creativity link.

An interesting theoretical model that explains how affect could influence cognition was provided by Isaac Getz and Todd Lubart in 1996. In an emotional resonance model for generating associations, they described endocepts that represent emotions attached to concepts or images in memory. These emotional memories are partially interconnected and can activate one another. Endocepts attached to concepts resonate with one another. Endocepts that are stimulated trigger other memories and associations and influence creative problem solving.

The emotional resonance model is consistent with other cognitive affective models such as Bower's associative network theory. In this model, emotion is conceptualized as a memory unit that has a special node in memory. The activation of the emotion unit aids in the retrieval of events associated with it. It primes emotional themes for use in free association. When activated, it spreads activation through memory structures.

Primary-process thinking might also be conceptualized as mood-relevant cognition, occurring when emotion nodes are activated. Primary process memories could be stored in emotion nodes. Primary process content has been proposed to be content around which the child had experienced early intense feeling states (e.g., oral, anal, or aggressive). Current primary process expressions could reflect these early encodings of emotion. Access to primary process material would activate emotion nodes and associations, thus resulting in a broad range of associations for creative work and problem solving.

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