The Form of a Half-baked Creative Idea: Empirical Explorations into the Structure of Ill-defined Mental Representations

Liane Gabora, Victoria S. Scotney, Jasmine Schwartz, Nicole Carbert, Adam Saab

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Creative thought is conventionally believed to involve searching memory and generating multiple independent candidate ideas followed by selection and refinement of the most promising. Honing theory, which grew out of the quantum approach to describing how concepts interact, posits that what appears to be discrete, separate ideas are actually different projections of the same underlying mental representation, which can be described as a superposition state, and which may take different outward forms when reflected upon from different perspectives. As creative thought proceeds, this representation loses potentiality to be viewed from different perspectives and manifest as different outcomes. Honing theory yields different predictions from conventional theories about the mental representation of an idea midway through the creative process. These predictions were pitted against one another in two studies: one closed-ended and one open-ended. In the first study, participants were interrupted midway through solving an analogy problem and wrote down what they were thinking in terms of a solution. In the second, participants were instructed to create a painting that expressed their true essence and describe how they conceived of the painting. For both studies, naïve judges categorized these responses as supportive of either the conventional view or the honing theory view. The results of both studies were significantly more consistent with the predictions of honing theory. Some implications for creative cognition, and cognition in general, are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102981
JournalActa Psychologica
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Brian O'Connor for comments, and Apara Ranjan and Conner Gibbs for assistance with the manuscript. This work was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (grant number 62R06523 ). Appendix A

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier B.V.


Dive into the research topics of 'The Form of a Half-baked Creative Idea: Empirical Explorations into the Structure of Ill-defined Mental Representations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this