Personal and Ubiquitous Computing

, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 1159–1167 | Cite as

Trains of thought on the tabletop: visualizing association of ideas improves creativity

  • Amandine Afonso Jaco
  • Stéphanie BuisineEmail author
  • Jessy Barré
  • Améziane Aoussat
  • Frédéric Vernier
Original Article


According to the Search for Ideas in Associative Memory theory, ideas in a brainstorming session do not come one by one but rather in “trains of thought,” which are rapid accumulations of semantically related ideas. In order to visualize these trains of thought, we developed a brainwriting tabletop interface enabling users to link successive ideas together by means of graphical ropes. To test the effectiveness of this device, 48 participants (in groups of four) brainstormed for 20 min on the tabletop in one of two conditions: either with the train-of-thought interface (with graphical ropes), or without the ropes (control condition). The results show that visualizing the associations between ideas enabled the participants to produce longer trains of thought. We also assessed originality by collecting the unique ideas in the whole corpus of ideas produced by the different groups and observed that the train-of-thought condition produced more original ideas than the control one. One interpretation of this finding is that visualizing trains of thought increases cognitive stimulation, i.e., improves creativity by making others’ ideas more intelligible to the brainstorming partners, in comparison with the classical visualization of ideas as independent items.


Train of thought Brainstorming Interactive tabletop system SIAM theory 



The authors thank Hayfa Tebourbi who designed the first version of the interface, Constant Touchard and Jean-Baptiste Dumay who participated in the experiment setup as well as Julien Nelson for his helpful comments on the manuscript.


  1. 1.
    Shen C, Ryall K, Forlines C, Esenther A, Vernier F, Everitt K, Wu M, Wigdor D, Ringel Morris M, Hancock M, Tse E (2006) Informing the design of direct-touch tabletops. IEEE Comput Graph Appl 26:56–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Scott SD, Carpendale S (2006) Interacting with digital tabletops. IEEE Comput Graph Appl 26:24–27Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Hartmann B, Ringel Morris M, Benko H, Wilson AD (2010) Pictionaire: supporting collaborative design work by integrating physical and digital artifacts. In: CSCW’10 international conference on computer-supported cooperative work, 2010. ACM Press, pp 421–424Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Hilliges O, Terrenghi L, Boring S, Kim D, Richter H, Butz A (2007) Designing for collaborative creative problem solving. In: C&C’07 international conference on creativity and cognition. ACM Press, pp 137–146Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Streitz NA, Geißler J, Holmer T, Konomi S (1999) I-LAND, an interactive landscape for creativity and innovation. In: CHI’99 international conference on human factors in computing systems, 1999. ACM Press, pp 120–127Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Warr A, O’Neill E (2006) Public social private design (PSPD). In: CHI’06 international conference on human factors in computing systems, 2006. ACM Press, pp 1499–1504Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Buisine S, Besacier G, Aoussat A, Vernier F (2012) How do interactive tabletop systems influence collaboration? Comput Hum Behav 28:49–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Schmitt L, Buisine S, Chaboissier J, Aoussat A, Vernier F (2012) Dynamic tabletop interfaces for increasing creativity. Comput Hum Behav 28:1892–1901CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Osborn AF (1953) Applied Imagination. Principles and procedures of creative problem-solving. Charles Scribner’s Sons, Oxford, EnglandGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Dugosh KL, Paulus PB (2005) Cognitive and social comparison processes in brainstorming. J Exp Soc Psychol 41:313–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Dugosh KL, Paulus PB, Roland EJ, Yang HC (2000) Cognitive stimulation in brainstorming. J Pers Soc Psychol 79(5):722–735CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Nijstad BA, Stroebe W, Lodewijkx HFM (2002) Cognitive stimulation and interference in groups: exposure effects in an idea generation task. J Exp Soc Psychol 38:535–544CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Bartis S, Szymanski K, Harkins SG (1988) Evaluation and performance: a two-edged knife. Pers Soc Psychol Bull 14:242–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Harkins SG, Jackson JM (1985) The role of evaluation in eliminating social loafing. Pers Soc Psychol Bull 11(4):457–465CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Michinov N, Primois C (2005) Improving productivity and creativity in online groups through social comparison process: new evidence for asynchronous electronic brainstorming. Comput Hum Behav 21:11–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Paulus PB, Dzindolet MT (1993) Social influence processes in group brainstorming. J Pers Soc Psychol 64(4):575–586CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Diehl M, Stroebe W (1987) Productivity loss in brainstorming groups: toward the solution of a riddle. J Pers Soc Psychol 53(3):497–509CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Heslin PA (2009) Better than brainstorming? Potential boundary conditions to brainwriting for idea generation in organizations. J Occup Organ Psychol 82:129–145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Paulus PB, Yang HC (2000) Idea generation in groups: a basis for creativity in organizations. Organ Behav Hum Decis Process 82:76–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Harkins SG, Szymanski K (1988) Social loafing and self-evaluation with an objective standard. J Exp Soc Psychol 24:354–365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Karau SJ, Hart JW (1998) Group cohesiveness and social loafing: effect of a social interaction manipulation on individual motivation within groups. Group Dyn Theory Res Pract 2:185–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Karau SJ, Williams KD (1993) Social loafing: a meta-analytic review and theoretical integration. J Pers Soc Psychol 65:681–706CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Serva MA, Fuller MA (1997) Preventing social loafing in the collaborative technology classroom. In: SIGCPR’97, 1997. ACM Press, pp 84–86Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Woolley AN, Chabris CF, Pentland A, Hashmi N, Malone TW (2010) Evidence for a collective intelligence factor in the performance of human groups. Science 330:686–688CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Brickner MA, Harkins SG, Ostrom TM (1986) Effects of personal involvement: thought-provoking implications for social loafing. J Pers Soc Psychol 51:763–769CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Shepperd JA (1993) Productivity loss in performance groups: a motivation analysis. Psychol Bull 113:67–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Nijstad BA, Stroebe W (2006) How the group affects the mind: a cognitive model of idea generation in groups. Pers Soc Psychol Rev 10:186–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Nijstad BA, Stroebe W, Lodewijkx HFM (2003) Production blocking and idea generation: does blocking interfere with cognitive processes? J Exp Soc Psychol 39:531–548CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Stroebe W, Nijstad BA, Rietzschel EF (2010) Beyond productivity loss in brainstorming groups: the evolution of a question. In: Zanna MP, Olson JM (eds) Advances in experimental social psychology, vol 43. Academic Press, New York, pp 157–203Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Raaijmakers JGW, Shiffrin RM (1981) Search of associative memory. Psychol Rev 88:93–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Rietzschel EF, Nijstad BA, Stroebe W (2007) Relative accessibility of domain knowledge and creativity: the effects of knowledge activation on the quantity and originality of generated ideas. J Exp Soc Psychol 43:933–946CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Mednick SA (1962) The associative basis of the creative process. Psychol Rev 69:220–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Dietz PH, Leigh D DiamondTouch (2001) A multi-user touch technology. In: UIST’01 international conference on user interface software and technology, 2001. ACM Press, pp 219–226Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Shen C, Vernier F, Forlines C, Ringel M (2004) DiamondSpin: an extensible toolkit for around-the-table interaction. In: CHI’04 international conference on human factors in computing systems, 2004. ACM Press, pp 167–174Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Buisine S, Besacier G, Najm M, Aoussat A, Vernier F (2007) Computer-supported creativity: evaluation of a tabletop mind-map application. In: HCII’07 human computer interaction international, 2007. Lecture notes in computer science. Springer, pp 22–31Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Brandl P, Forlines C, Wigdor D, Haller M, Shen C (2008) Combining and measuring the benefits of bimanual pen and direct-touch interaction on horizontal interfaces. In: AVI’08 international conference on advanced visual interfaces, 2008. pp 154–161Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Geyer F, Pfeil U, Budzinski J, Höchtl A, Reiterer H (2011) AffinityTable—a hybrid surface for supporting affinity diagramming. In: INTERACT’11 IFIP conference on human-computer interaction, 2011. Springer, pp 477–484Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    DeRosa DM, Smith CL, Hantula DA (2007) The medium matters: mining the long-promised merit of group interaction in creative idea generation tasks in a meta-analysis of the electronic group brainstorming literature. Comput Hum Behav 23:1549–1581CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Gallupe RB, Bastianutti LM, Cooper WH (1991) Unblocking brainstorms. J Appl Psychol 76(1):137–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    McLaughlin Hymes C, Olson GM (1992) Unblocking brainstorming through the use of a simple group editor. In: CSCW’92 international conference on computer-supported cooperative work, 1992. ACM Press, pp 99–106Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Valacich JS, Dennis AR, Connolly T (1994) Idea generation in computer-based groups: a new ending to an old story. Organ Behav Hum Decis Process 57:448–467CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Runco MA (2004) Creativity. Annu Rev Psychol 55:657–687CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Torrance EP (1966) The torrance tests of creative thinking. Personnel Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Paulus PB, Kohn NW, Arditti LE, Korde RM (2013) Understanding the group size effect in electronic brainstorming. Small Group Research 44:332–352CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amandine Afonso Jaco
    • 1
  • Stéphanie Buisine
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jessy Barré
    • 1
  • Améziane Aoussat
    • 1
  • Frédéric Vernier
    • 2
  1. 1.Arts et Métiers ParisTechLCPIParisFrance
  2. 2.LIMSI-CNRSOrsay CedexFrance

Personalised recommendations