Memory & Cognition

, Volume 24, Issue 5, pp 669–680 | Cite as

How examples may (and may not) constrain creativity

  • Richard L. MarshEmail author
  • Joshua D. Landau
  • Jason L. Hicks


Three experiments were performed to test Smith, Ward, and Schumacher’s (1993) conformity hypothesis— that people’s ideas will conform to examples they are shown in a creative generation task. Conformity was observed in all three experiments; participants tended to incorporate critical features of experimenter-provided examples. However, examination of total output, elaborateness of design, and the noncritical features did not confirm that the conformity effect constrained creative output in any of the three experiments. Increasing the number of examples increased the conformity effect (Experiment 1). Examples that covaried features that are naturally uncorrelated in the real world led to a greater subjective rating of creativity (Experiment 2). A delay between presentation and test increased conformity (Experiment 3), just as models of inadvertent plagiarism would predict. The explanatory power of theoretical accounts such as activation, retrieval blocking, structured imagination, and category abstraction are evaluated.


Critical Feature Category Learning Artificial Condition Conformity Effect Uncommon Feature 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard L. Marsh
    • 1
    Email author
  • Joshua D. Landau
    • 1
  • Jason L. Hicks
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthens

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