What is it about?

Convergent thinking tasks require individuals to generate a solution that depends on combining multiple cue components (i.e., that are multiply-constrained). For example, a commonly used convergent thinking task, the remote associates task, requires participants to find a fourth word that is related to three cue words (e.g., potato, tooth, and heart can be combined with sweet to form three compound words). Most previous studies focused on exploring the relationship between candidate solutions, whereby the search strategy and mechanisms of convergent thinking could be investigated. The present study attempts to explore this issue from another point of view. We are concentrating on understanding how multiple cues interact with each other via workload capacity, and finally reveal individual differences in workload capacity, suggesting individuals are much more likely to accept different search strategies to solve multiply-constrained problems. We also observe a negative correlation between workload capacity and convergent thinking.

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Why is it important?

Our study provides a new possible interpretation to understand the mechanisms of convergent thinking. Traditional wisdom holds that working memory (WM) may play an important role in convergent thinking, but discrepant findings do not support directly associating convergent thinking with WM. Hence, Chuderski (2014) proposed that reasoning mediates the effects of WM on convergent thinking which was still based on WM. However, the present study bypasses WM and switches to workload capacity, a crucial but easily overlooked factor, by which a negative relationship is directly observed between workload capacity and convergent thinking. This contributes to the current understanding of convergent thinking, despite limitations to be solved by future study (e.g. measure context invariance, directly comparing the number of candidate solutions loaded).

Perspectives

I hope this article can broaden the focus of research on convergent thinking and related studies such as associative memory. Recent investigations into convergent thinking seem to excessively concentrate on working memory only. I hope our study can provide previously unconsidered answers and questions into this field and domain.

Cheng-Ta Yang
National Cheng Kung University

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This page is a summary of: The workload capacity of semantic search in convergent thinking., Journal of Experimental Psychology General, November 2021, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/xge0001045.
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