Divergent thinking and constructing future events: dissociating old from new ideas

Published Date: 
June 29, 2021

Divergent thinking (the ability to generate creative ideas by combining diverse types of information) has been previously linked to the ability to imagine novel and specific future autobiographical events. Here, we examined whether divergent thinking is differentially associated with the ability to construct novel imagined future events and recast future events (i.e., actual past events recast as future events) as opposed to recalled past events. We also examined whether different types of creative ideas (i.e., old ideas from memory or new ideas from imagination) underlie the linkage between divergent thinking and various autobiographical events. Divergent thinking ability was measured using the Alternate Uses Task (AUT). In Experiment 1, the amount of episodic details for both novel and recast future events was associated with divergent thinking (AUT scores), and this relationship was significant with AUT scores for new creative ideas but not old creative ideas. There was no significant relationship between divergent thinking and the amount of episodic detail for recalled past events. We extended these findings in Experiment 2 to a different test of divergent thinking, the Consequences Task. These results demonstrate that individual differences in divergent thinking are associated with the capacity to both imagine and recast future events.

Preston P Thakral, Amanda C Yang, Donna Rose Addis, Daniel L Schacter