Collaborative ideation systems can help people generate more creative ideas by exposing them to ideas of others that are different from their own. However, there are competing theoretical views on whether and when such exposure is helpful. The associationist theory of creativity suggests that always exposing ideators to ideas that are semantically far from their own maximizes novel combinations of ideas. In contrast, the SIAM theory of creativity cautions that systems should offer far ideas only when ideators reach an impasse (a cognitive state in which they have exhausted ideas within a particular category), and offer near ideas during productive ideation (a cognitive state in which they are actively exploring ideas within a category), in order to maximize exploration within categories. In this paper, we compare these theoretical recommendations in an online experiment, where 245 participants generated ideas for a themed wedding. We find that receiving far ideas during productive ideation results in slower ideation, less within-category exploration, without significant benefits for novelty, compared to receiving no inspirations. Participants were also more likely to hit an impasse when receiving far ideas during productive ideation. These findings suggest that far inspirational ideas can harm creativity if received during productive ideation.
Joel Chan, Pao Siangliulue, Denisa Qori, Ruixue Liu, Reza Moradinezhad, Safa Aman, Erin Solovey, Krzysztof Z. Gajos, and Steven Dow. Semantically far inspirations considered harmful? accounting for cognitive states in collaborative ideation. In Proceedings of the 2017 ACM SIGCHI Conference on Creativity and Cognition, C&C '17, 2017. To appear.