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Joy Desdevises



Ph.D student

Paris Cité University

The role of the social context on creative idea generation during the development

Supervised by Mathieu Cassotti

Research on the development of creativity has shown that the ability to generate creative ideas can be limited by cognitive (e.g., fixation effect) and social (e.g., social inhibition due to the expectation of evaluation) biases. These two types of biases have essentially been studied in isolation of one another and few studies have examined their interaction from a developmental perspective. Therefore, the aim of this thesis was to explore the impact of different social contexts on creativity and on the fixation effect, as well as to identify and understand the processes involved. To this end, four studies were carried out, each with a consistent set of measures, but altering between different social contexts. The first study demonstrated that even though the fixation effect appears to increase across the duration of adolescence, so does their ability to propose original ideas. This increase goes hand in hand with an improved ability to detect when their ideas belong to the fixation and are hence considered as less creative. However, the manipulated social context (i.e., an expected evaluation) did not seem sufficiently prominent, which is why we did not observe any effect of context on creativity at any age. As a result, we subsequently decided to focus on the period of late adolescence, for which we tried to improve the prominence of the social contexts studied. Thus, in our second study, our participants competed either with co-actors present (i.e., in-group competition) or with fictitious individuals (i.e., students from another university; out-group competition). The results showed that generating ideas for a creative problem could be facilitated by out-group competition, without reducing the fixation effect. In order to understand the lack of impact of in-group competition, we carried out two further studies, manipulating the process of social comparison, which can be of different types. Our data revealed that comparing oneself to others who are performing worse than oneself (i.e., top-down comparison) reduces effort, productivity, and thus the number of creative ideas proposed. On the other hand, individuals in bottom-up comparison (i.e., comparing themselves to others performing better), seem to have proposed a maximum number of ideas without paying particular attention to their creativity. In this condition, a decrease in expansion was observed, but a strengthening of the fixation effect. Furthermore, results indicated that these effects were only found in the context of coaction (i.e., the presence of another person). Finally, we carried out a study on the effects of collaborative work (i.e., working in pairs). While participants who had to generate ideas in pairs felt more confident, more at ease and less competitive, their productivity of ideas was decreased compared to those who had to generate ideas individually, in simple coaction. Taken together, these results can have an impact on fundamental research and propose various new directions for future research.


Desdevises, J. (2021) Rôle du contexte social dans le développement de la génération d'idées créatives. [Doctoral dissertation, Université Paris Cité]

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