Creative discovery in imagery and perception: combining is relatively easy, restructuring takes a sketch

Acta Psychol (Amst). 1998 Jul;99(2):177-200. doi: 10.1016/s0001-6918(98)00010-9.


A figure combination task, in which three components are combined into an object, was administered under imagery-alone and externalization conditions to subjects with different levels of sketching expertise. In externalization conditions the imaged combinations were sketched. In accordance with earlier studies, the combinations were rated equally creative across conditions. The combinations were scored with regard to the novelty of their spatial configurations of the components (combining score), and with regard to the novelty of the structure of the components (restructuring score). For expert sketchers the latter score was found to be increased by sketching. Creativity ratings correlated with both combining and restructuring scores in the sketching condition, but only with combining scores in the imagery condition. The results are interpreted in terms of a model in which creative processes use combining and restructuring strategies in a flexible way. Whereas restructuring draws heavily on both externalization and expertise in externalization, combining can be used independently of externalization and expertise.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Art*
  • Computer Graphics
  • Creativity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagination / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Psychological Tests
  • Visual Perception*