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PEOPLE: International Journal of Social Sciences

ISSN 2454-5899

Siddique & R.S., 2018


Volume 3 Issue 3, 1657-1672
Date of Publication: 20 th February 2018
DOI-https://dx.doi.org/10.20319/pijss.2018.33.16571672
This paper can be cited as: Siddique, A.M & Rs, M. (2018). Exploring effects of Incubation on Creativity,
Problem solving and Meta-cognition. People: International Journal of Social Sciences, 3(3), 1657-1672.

EXPLORING EFFECTS OF INCUBATION ON CREATIVITY,


PROBLEM SOLVING AND META-COGNITION.
Akifa Mariam Siddique
M.Sc. Applied Psychology, Department of Psychology, Justice Basheer Ahmed Sayeed College
for women, Chennai, India
akiffasiddique@gmail.com

Maragatham.R.S
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Justice Basheer Ahmed Sayeed College for
women, Chennai, India
maragathamkumar@gmail.com

Abstract
The world today is characterized by stiff competition and people develop an urge for being in the
top notch of the society. Universally across all age groups - the bosses, teachers and parents are
pushing their staff or children to reach the pinnacle point. At these junctures, the caliber of the
outcome suffers a quantum decrease because quantity and quick work overpowers quality. The
importance of “breather time” also referred as the time period where one lets go of focus on the
present task and focuses on subliminal activity is called as Incubation. This can immensely
contribute to the quality, quantity as well as efficiency in time.To draw an analogy between the
Mad rush and Creative production, it is important to note the ideals of the Psychologist Wallas,
1926 who proposed the term “Incubation”. This downtime has a positive effect on creativity and
problem solving (Dodds et al., 2003; Sio and Ormerod, 2009). Meta-cognition is another key
cognitive function which enhances planning and learning outcomes, and proves to be a guide for
self-monitoring. This research aims to find out the importance of incubation in creativity,
problem solving and meta-cognition. The research design was constructed with experimental
tests including pre and post-test. The groups were randomly synthesized. The results of the
research should prove on how an experiment with a brief time with no activity would fetch good

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results as compared to continuous work with no assimilation time. This is congruence with a
classic proverb “All work with no play makes jack a dull boy”.
Keywords
Incubation, Creativity, Problem solving, Meta-cognition.

1. Introduction
“Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected.”It has always been a
matter of wonder on how ideas arise in the thoughts when one ponders about an issue and how
an idea can actually pave way to a solution. The time period when one lets go of conscious
thought, the unconscious mind has always been persistent to come up with an idea. This happens
with no conscious focus or effort. This time period is generally termed as the Incubation period.
Incubation is related to the subconscious memory, where in the process of thinking an insight is
achieved to solve a problem. The unconscious mind is putting up, knitting together patterns and
experiences from our entire consciousness, and broaches on an altogether new idea when our
conscious mind is focusing on other mental activities. Incubation substantially increases the
ability to solve a problem, and longer incubation period benefits an individual with lower
cognitive workloads. In the current scenario, Individuals face numerous stressful situations every
day in their homes, offices, schools and other workplaces. Incubation can facilitate the individual
to carry on other activities that can help them lower their stress.
1.1 Theoretical Framework of Incubation
Incubation is closely associated with insightful thinking. Incubation was proposed as the
second of four phases in problem solving (the others being preparation, illumination, and
verification) by Wallas(1926). The role of incubation will help promote creativity effectively in
different surroundings such as classroom learning, work environments and to deal with problem
solving.
Multifarious theories of creation, problem solving and metacognition have highlighted
the role of an implicit cognitive process. “Creativity” is the ability and the limitless phenomenon
which helps in perceiving the world in new ways, finding the hidden patterns from the original
ideas and generating new innovative solutions. The fundamental elements of creativity has been
related to cognitive abilities such as perceiving, learning, remembering, expertise and practice

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(Patrick, 1986; Amabile, 1996; Runco, 2004; Ericsson, 2006; Sawyer, 2012), Creativity mainly
thrives on extensive conscious thought.
Creativity which is a part of the cognitive process involves cognitive abilities and also involves
the acquisition of knowledge and skills to transform the knowledge into new forms and rendering
them into a shareable product. Meta-cognition refers to knowledge concerning to their own
cognitive processes and products, consequent regulation and evaluation of cognitive activities.
Intentional pedagogical approaches have shown powerful results in problem solving (Delclos &
Metacognition and Learning 4 Harrington, 1991).
Strenuous activities and unremitting workloads have caused a decline in the efficiency of
creative problem solving. A need for quantity overpowers quality in the real time environment.
Such necessities have scaled down the quality of completing a work by the use of Fast forward,
fast food, immediate gratification and instant success (FFII process). A person is not able to
display his full potential due to such necessities and deadlines in the absence of breather time.
For example, students, employees, bosses and parents are under constant stress and pressure at
their work environments which makes them lose their efficiency to work better. Introducing an
incubation period at regular intervals will help them give a spark to rehabilitate their thoughts
and showcase their abilities with faster and efficient outcomes.
Thus the aim of the study is to find out and understand the importance of incubation in
creativity, problem solving and meta-cognition and is intended to shed light on the question
whether an incubation period contributes to the development of creative problem solving in an
individual.

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Figure 1: Pictorial description of whole brain creativity

2. Review of literature
Many of the Laboratory studies of Wallas (1926) have supported the benefits of
incubation.Stein (1974, 1975) has summarized studies up until the mid 1970s, in which
researchers evaluated attempts to stimulate adult creativity at the individual and group level,
using a range of techniques, including role play, brainstorming, psychotherapy and hypnosis. The
study proves that attempts to train people to become more creative are not particularly effective,
although some short-term effects were indicated (Mansfield et al, 1978).
Empirical studies conducted by Kaplan, 1989; Smith and Blankenship, 1989; Smith and
Dodds, 1999; Dodds et al., 2003 reported strong effects of the incubation period.
However , otherstudies conducted by Olton and Johnson, 1976 have failed to show any
effects of incubationSmith and Blankenship (1989) illustrated about Incubation. Incubation
effects, defined as improvements in problem-solving performance when subjects are retested on
problems after an interval, were found in all four experiments.
Ryhammer & Brolin (1999) points out that the development of new ideas and original
products is a particularly human characteristic. The notion of ‘inspiration’ or ‘getting an idea’

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(ibid, page 260), is found in the Greek, Judaic, Christian and Muslim traditions and is founded on
the belief that a higher power produces it. Being human being was seen as the source of
inspiration and its artistic expression amidst a great romantic era. During this era, originality,
insight, the creative genius and the subjectivity of feeling were highly valued. From the end of
the nineteenth century, people began to investigate the question of what fostered creativity.
To unravel the uncertainties and doubts surrounding incubation effects, Dodds et al.
(2003) conducted a review of experimental literature on incubation in problem solving and
creativity, and revealed that 29 out of 39 experiments have found a significant effect of
incubation. The authors further suggested that the length of incubation period and preparatory
activities can increase incubation effects.
Eliaz Segal (2004) conducted a study to extent of the incubation phenomena.An insight
puzzle was used, and a break (incubation) was given after the participant reached the impasse
stage. Indeed, incubation effects were found under some conditions. This proved the returning
act hypothesis, which states that the break only serves as a diversion from the influence of the
false assumption. This diversion enables the solver to apply a new organizing assumption when
reencountering the components of the problem that, for a pre-attentive moment, are found in an
unorganized state. Therefore, this hypothesis predicts that a break would improve the
performance in insight problem solving. However the duration of the break would not influence
performance
Dijksterhuis & Meurs, (2006).Conducted a study and results indicated that Focused
deliberation on problems can undermine creativity, whereas distraction can enhance creativity.
Bo T. Christensen (2005) predicted that the three theories lead to different outcome
variables, all associated with creativity. Only when all three (integration and diversity, freedom,
and commitment) are present in a given organizational implementation of participation in
decision making, can it be expected that creative search activity, and the quality and quantity of
creative products and innovations are all positively affected.
The results of this field study show that self- regulation (setting priorities, planning work
activities, and monitoring time and task progress) and having an innovative cognitive style are
important predictors of success, and that self efficacy plays a key role in these relationships as a
(partial) mediator. Specifically, it was found that self- regulation was directly related to being a
successful business person, and indirectly, via self-efficacy, to being a successful designer. In the

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past, research on creativity at work predominantly focused on the creative aspects of creative
professions. This field study provides a distinct contribution to the literature about creativity at
work, because it adopted a somewhat broader view on creative professions by including both the
creative and business aspects of the work.
Specifically, it showed that one antecedent (innovative style) predominantly influences
the creative side of the work (being a successful designer), whereas another antecedent (self-
regulation) mainly influences the business side of the work (being a successful businessperso n).
Self-efficacy explained existing spillover effects
Sio and Ormerod (2009) conducted a statistical meta-analytic review of empirical studies
of incubation. The contributions of moderators such as problem type, presence of cues, and
lengths of preparation and incubation periods were investigated in their 117 independent studies
of meta-analysis and positive effects of incubation was found in most of the studies.
Educational psychologists have long promoted the importance of metacognition for
regulating and supporting student learning. Metacognition is a multidimensional set of skills that
involve “thinking about thinking.” (Emily R.Lai, 2011) Metacognition entails two components:
metacognitive knowledge and metacognitive regulation. Insights experienced while monitoring
and regulating cognition play a role in the development and refinement of metacognitive
knowledge. In turn, cognitive knowledge appears to facilitate the abilit y to regulate cognition.
The two are empirically related and may be integrated in the form of metacognitive theories,
which are formal or informal frameworks for representing and organizing beliefs about
knowledge.
In a recent study, Baird et al. (2012) examined whether creative performance was
facilitated differentially by engaging in mind-wandering .Baird demonstrated that it resulted
from an incubation process rather than a general increase in creative problem solving. The
unrelated thoughts that occur during mind wandering uniquely seem to facilitate incubation.
According to Baird et al., one possible explanation may be that mind wandering enhances
creativity by increasing unconscious associative processing, as predicted by the spreading-
activation account of incubation (e.g., Yaniv and Meyer, 1987; Dijksterhuis and Meurs, 2006).
In a recent study, Gilhooly et al. (2013) investigated interactions between the type of
creativity task (verbal or spatial) and the type of incubation activity (verbal or spatial) on creative
performance. The findings suggest that an interpolated incubation activity of a dissimilar nature

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to the target task leads to stronger effects of incubation as compared to an interpolated activity
similar to the target task.
Simone M. Ritter* (2014)concluded his through his meta-analysis suggest that it is not
merely the absence of conscious thought that drives creativity, but that during a n incubation
period unconscious processes can contribute to creative thinking. Often, it takes time to come up
with creative ideas and solutions. It is reasonable to assume that most thought processes
underlying creative thought are neither fully conscious nor fully unconscious. Instead, prolonged
creative thought processes may have both conscious and unconscious elements, and conscious
and unconscious thought may alternate.
Finally, various attempts have been made to investigate incubation effects in creativity
and creative problem solving. The conclusion of the literature can be synthesized that overall, a
positive effect of incubation can be observed. The work by Dodds et al. (2003) and Sio and
Ormerod (2009), who conducted reviews of empirical studies of incubation, justify the
conclusion that incubation can enhance creative performance. This is also supported by research
on mind-wandering and sleep, which can be seen as short and relatively long periods of
incubation. However, the process(es) underlying incubation effects remain unclear.

3. Research Methodology
3.1 Objective
The objective is grouped into two main areas
1. Effect of incubation on creativity
2. Effect of incubation on Metacognition
3.2 Sample
The study was conducted on 90 college students. The samples were selected using
convenient sampling technique. They were randomly assigned to one of the three groups. The
samples consisted of college students between the age group of 18 to 23 years and the data was
collected using measures of creativity and meta-cognitive inventory.
3.3 Hypothesis:
1. There is no significant relationship between variables creativity and metacognition
among the participants.

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2. There is significant difference between pretest and posttest measures of creativity among
the participants for Group I.
3. There is significant difference between pre test and post test measures of metacognition
among the participants for Group I.
4. There is significant difference between pre test and post test measures of creativity
among the participants for Group II.
5. There is no significant difference between pre test and post test measures of
metacognition among the participants for Group II.
6. There is significant difference between pre test and post test measures of creativity
among the participants for Group III.
7. There is no significant difference between pre test and post test measures of
metacognition among the participants for Group III.
3.4 Measures /Tools used:
The MAI (Meta-cognitive Awareness Inventory) was designed and tested by Schraw and
Dennison and is one of few surveys used in measuring metacognitive awareness .The MAI has
52 statements representing two component categories of metacognition;
 Knowledge about cognition: Knowledge of metacognition can be divided into three
groups:
1. Declarative knowledge (knowledge about self and strategies),
2. Procedural knowledge (knowledge about how to use strategies) and
3. Conditional knowledge (knowledge about when and why to use strategies).
 Regulation of cognition: Regulation of metacognition covers five areas:
1. Planning (goal setting),
2. Information management (organizing),
3. Monitoring (assessment of one’s learning and strategy),
4. Debugging (strategies used to correct errors) and
5. Evaluation (analysis of performance and strategy effectiveness after a learning
episode).
The statements are mixed and not divided into these different areas (Schraw, 1998;
Kincannon et al, 1999)

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Creativity measuring test was designed as a testing tool to determine the level of creativity
among the individuals. The test comprised of 11 questions. These 11 questions were covered the
following five areas of creative components:
 Anagrams
 Comprehensive passage
 Mazes
 Puzzles and Rational thinking
 Lateral thinking , riddles and brain teasers
3.5 Research design
The aim is to find out and understand the importance of incubation in creativity; problem
solving and meta-cognition.An experimental study was done for 60 minutes among college
students to a sample size of 90.The objectives and purpose of the study was clearly
communicated to the participants who consented to be a part of the study. The 90 samples were
randomly assigned to 3 groups .The first 30 participants constituted Group I, the next 30
samples in Group II, and the rest 30 samples in Group III. The questionnaires, one for pre-test
and another for the post-test were administered on the participants and were encouraged to
complete within a specified time limit. They were instructed not to skip any question.
3.5.1 Administration for Group I.
The following steps were followed. The samples were seated comfortably in a distraction
free environment, and the metacognitive inventory was administered on them. They were asked
to respond as per their thought process at that point. 15 minutes was the timelimit and they were
encouraged to finish the test within the time limit. The test was followed by an intermittent time
during which the samples were restricted from doing any activity. They were asked to sit idle.
This was followed by metacognition inventory (for that present state ) and creativity test. Care
was taken so as not to repeat any question.
3.5.2 Administration for Group II.
The administration process for Group II was similar to the Group I, but during the
intermittent time, the samples were asked to relax, and mild music was played.

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3.5.3 Administration for Group III.


The administration process for Group III was similar to the Group I, However, during the
intermittent time the test was followed by test of creativity with questions from 5 areas. This
group was not given any rest period. Therefore, immediately they were given problem solving
exercises for a period of 30 minutes. Care was taken so as not to repeat any question.
3.6 Statistics used
The data collected was scored and tabulated. The scores were statistically analyzed using
Pearson’s product moment correlation and t test.

4. Results and Discussion


Table 1: Showing the correlation coefficient between Pretest Creativity and Pretest
Meta-cognition
Variable N Correlation coefficient

Pretest Creativity 90
0.021 NS
Pretest Metacognition 90
NS – Not Significant

Table 2: Showing the correlation coefficient between Post Creativity and Posttest
Metacognition
Variable N Correlation coefficient

Post test Creativity 90


0.21 NS
Post test Metacognition 90
NS – Not Significant
- The reason behind conducting a pre test and post test for creativity and metacognition is
to determine whether the intermittent time has an effect on the relationship between the
two variables - creativity and metacognition.
- The results in Table 1 and Table 2 show that there is no correlation between creativity
and metacognition.

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- Hence the hypothesis which states there is no significant relationship between variables
creativity and metacognition among the participants is accepted.

Table 3: Showing the Mean, t-value and level of significance for Group 1 between Pretest and
Post test of Creativity

Variable Test N Mean SD t- Value


Pretest 30 7.23 1.50
Creativity 6.458 **
Posttest 30 8.60 1.37
** P < 0.01
- The results in Table 3 show that there is a significant difference between pre test and post
test in creativity for Group 1. This group spent 30 minutes intermittent time between pre
and post test engaging themselves in sedentary cognition less activities like doodling or
just chatting, which seems to have contributed to the difference in scores among the
participants of Group 1. The activities the participants engaged in kept them away from
stress and timely responsibilities. The participants were benefited from the time break
provided in-between pre test and post test and this intermission helped them improve
their creative problem solving skills.(Kaplan, 1989; Smith and Blankenship, 1989; Smith
and Dodds, 1999; Dodds et al., 2003Sio&Ormerod, 2009).
- Hence, the hypothesis which states there is no significant difference between pre test and
post test measures of creativity among the participants for Group 1 is rejected.

Table 4: Showing the Mean, t-value and level of significance for Group 1
Between Pretest and Post test of Metacognition.
Variable Test N Mean SD t- Value
Pretest 30 38.56 8.45
Metacognition 3.841 **
Posttest 30 40.63 9.03
** P < 0.01
- The results in table 4 show that there is significant difference between pre test and post
test measures of metacognition for Group 1. This indicates that the intermittent time
period seems to have increased in their cognitive skills . This time was instrumental in

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allowing the subconscious mind to break through the blocks that prevents them from
fresh thoughts .The time period would have also helped them improve their skills in
processing knowledge about cognition and regulation of cognition. (Ilanyaniv and
davide.meyer1987)
- Hence, the hypothesis which states there is no significant difference between pre test and
post test measures of metacognition among the participants of Group 1 is rejected.
Table 5: Showing the Mean, t-value and level of significance for Group II between Pretest and
Post test of Creativity.
Variable Test N Mean SD t- Value
Pretest 30 6.06 1.48
Creativity 3.804**
Posttest 30 6.96 1.79

** P < 0.01
- Group II participants were asked to relax and a mild music was played . This group was
requested to listen to music, or stay calm and sleep.The results indicated significant
difference between pretest and post scores. The relaxed time has increased the creativity
of the participants of the group.(Kaplan, 1989; Smith and Blankenship, 1989; Smith and
Dodds, 1999; Dodds et al., 2003:Sio&Ormerod, 2009).
- Hence, the hypothesis stating that there is no significant difference between pre test and
post test measures of creativity among the participants for Group II is rejected.

Table 6: Showing the Mean, t-value and level of significance for Group II
Between Pretest and Post test of Metacognition.
Variable Test N Mean SD t- Value
Pretest 30 40.00 6.76
Metacognition 1.770 NS
Posttest 30 41.06 7.24
NS – Not Significant
- The pretest and post test for metacognition showed no significant difference.
- Hence, the hypotheses which states there is no significant difference between pre test and
post test measures of metacognition among the participants for Group II is accepted.

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Table 7: Showing the Mean, t-value and level of significance for Group III
Between Pretest and Post test of Creativity
Variable Test N Mean SD t- Value
Pretest 30 6.93 1.74
Creativity 9.304**
Posttest 30 3.40 1.99

** P < 0.01
- The results from Table 7 shows a colossal significant difference between the pretest and
posttest of creativity for Group III. This result proves that continuous exposure to
problem solving with regular workloads exhausts and weakens the cognitive process. It
also diminishes the cognitive abilities and does not permit or give the opportunity to the
subconscious mind to generate new and fresh innovative ideas, when no proper
assimilation of time is provided. Lack of intermission resulted in the decline of their
creativity levels during the post test. “Focused deliberation on problems can undermine
creativity, whereas distraction can enhance creativity”(R.J Sternberg 1995;
Dijksterhuis&Meurs, 2006).
- Hence, the hypothesis which states there is no significant difference between pre test and
post test measures of creativity among the participants for Group III is rejected.

Table 8: Showing the Mean, t-value and level of significance for Group III between Pretest and
Post test of Metacognition.
Variable Test N Mean SD t- Value
Pretest 30 39.26 5.21
Metacognition 1.241 NS
Posttest 30 40.10 4.52
NS – Not Significant
- The above results display the t-value for the pretest and posttest of metacognition among
the participants of Group III. The mean difference explains that even with continuous
workloads the participants did take an effort to be aware of their own cognitive abilities.
However, due to the exhaustion and draining of their thought process for longer hours of
time with no incubation period curtailed the ability of the participants to pay attention and
put efforts on their own cognitive knowledge (Ilanyaniv and davide.meyer1987). This

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time period with tenacious workload resulted in reducing one’s own ability to improve
their knowledge about cognition and regulation of knowledge. This explains the stress
behind presence of strenuous workloads in the real world.
- Hence, the hypothesis which states there is no significant difference between pre test and
post test measures of metacognition among the participants for group III is accepted.
5. Conclusion
The results reveal the effect of the incubation process. Incubation period or intermittent
time extensively increases the creativity and problem solving . Effects of the incubation period
works well on individuals to help them improve their work efficiency and also reduce their work
stress. Different kinds of activities during incubation do not seem to make any substantial
difference on an individual’s capacity. The ability with which they solve a problem is in relation
with the individuals focus on a subject. For people who are stuck with higher workloads,
incubation proves to be more beneficial.The time period provided for incubation is also one of
the factors that results in better problem solving. Incubation period along with other leisure
activities improves problem solving and creativity. This research urges the researchers and
individuals around the world to emphasize the importance of incubation period which can
substantially enhance the ability of an individual towards problem solving and creativity.
5.1 Limitations
1. Time period – The amount of incubation time provided could have been lengthier.
2. The sample size can be larger.
3. Initial selection of samples using convenient sampling technique restricted the accuracy of the
results.
4. A more natural calm surrounding could have helped us get better précised values.
5. The students were restless by the end while completing the test.
5.2 Future scope
1. Using higher sample size means dealing with a larger size of statistics and a wide variance
among the values of the statistical report would provide a more significant result between
creativity and metacognition
2. A more controlled test environment with a higher incubation period could be used in the future
to achieve better results.
3. Cluster sampling could be used to understand a region/state wise perspective.

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Article I.

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