Creative Sparks or Paralysis Traps? The Effects of Contradictions on Creative Processing and Creative Products
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Paradoxes are an unavoidable part of work life. The unusualness of attempting to simultaneously satisfy contradictory imperatives can result in creative outcomes that simultaneously satisfy both imperatives by inducing search for, and selection of, novel and useful solutions. Likewise, extant research suggests that paradoxes can also result in anxiety, defensiveness, and persistence of old ways of doing things. However, there is little work attempting to describe how paradoxes affect cognition and when it results in higher or lower creativity. To tackle this issue, a theory of paradoxical creativity is developed. Paradoxical creativity is the attempt by an individual to creatively resolve a contradiction by simultaneously achieving competing demands. The theory is implemented into a computational model and a simulation is used to describe how paradoxes affect creative cognitive process and how these processes in turn result in higher or lower degrees of creativity. The results show that creative output is enhanced when paradoxes have a balanced effect on the cognitive processes responsible for an individual's capacity to search for new information and willingness to tolerate new ideas. Hence, individuals with high baseline levels of creative cognition are more likely to suffer negative creative performance consequences resulting from contradictory demands. For those individuals, contradictory demands may produce more alternatives, which increases uncertainty and time to insight (if insight is ever reached). This suggests that incentives or rewards to resolve contradictions may have the unintentional effect of reducing creative output in some circumstance.