Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Psychology researchers explore how engineers create: It's not so much 'eureka' moments as it's the sweat of one's brow

Date:
June 17, 2014
Source:
University of Pittsburgh
Summary:
Simply put, engineers make things. But is finding that 'new' invention a massive mental leap from point A to point B, or are there scores of unnoticed intermediate steps in between?

Simply put, engineers make things. But is finding that "new" invention a massive mental leap from point A to point B, or are there scores of unnoticed intermediate steps in between?

The University of Pittsburgh's Joel Chan and Christian Schunn say that not enough has been done to understand how engineers create. Understanding the process, they say, may provide a road map for speeding up innovation.

Chan, a graduate student in psychology in Pitt's Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, and his mentor Schunn, a professor of psychology as well as a senior scientist in Pitt's Learning Research and Development Center, recently published a paper online in the journal Cognitive Science that delves into the workings of the creative engineering mind by examining the process in real life.

"Most companies make all their money on new products," Schunn says. "They barely break even on old products. They have to innovate to be viable, and that's a hard path to follow."

In the pursuit of innovation, Schunn says, companies pay big money to consultants to help spur creativity. "But little of what they do is based on research," he adds.

So, along with Chan, Schunn used multiple hours of transcripts of a professional engineering team's "brainstorming" sessions and broke down the conversation systematically, looking for the path by which thought A led to thought B that led to breakthrough C.

"We want to understand the nature of cognitive limitations," Schunn says. "Why do we get stuck (on an idea), what kinds of things get us unstuck, and why do they work?"

What they found in the sessions they studied is that new ideas didn't spring fully formed after massive cognitive leaps. Creativity is a stepwise process in which idea A spurs a new but closely related thought, which prompts another incremental step, and the chain of little mental advances sometimes eventually ends with an innovative idea in a group setting.

Channeling Thomas Edison's dictum that genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration, Schunn concludes that "inspiration creates some … perspiration."

So, thus far, the lesson seems to be that if you're not making creative progress, don't wait for a bolt from the blue, keep talking to your peers, and keep sweating.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Pittsburgh. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Joel Chan, Christian Schunn. The Impact of Analogies on Creative Concept Generation: Lessons From anIn VivoStudy in Engineering Design. Cognitive Science, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/cogs.12127

Cite This Page:

University of Pittsburgh. "Psychology researchers explore how engineers create: It's not so much 'eureka' moments as it's the sweat of one's brow." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140617144814.htm>.
University of Pittsburgh. (2014, June 17). Psychology researchers explore how engineers create: It's not so much 'eureka' moments as it's the sweat of one's brow. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140617144814.htm
University of Pittsburgh. "Psychology researchers explore how engineers create: It's not so much 'eureka' moments as it's the sweat of one's brow." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140617144814.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) In a small study, researchers found that the majority of long-time smokers quit after taking psilocybin pills and undergoing therapy sessions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) A study for University College London suggests obese people who are discriminated against gain more weight than those who are not. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

      Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins