Modal shifts in concentration indicate creativity

DS 87-8 Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED 17) Vol 8: Human Behaviour in Design, Vancouver, Canada, 21-25.08.2017

Year: 2017
Editor: Anja Maier, Stanko Škec, Harrison Kim, Michael Kokkolaras, Josef Oehmen, Georges Fadel, Filippo Salustri, Mike Van der Loos
Author: Nguyen, Philon; Zeng, Yong
Series: ICED
Institution: Concordia University, Canada
Section: Human Behaviour in Design
Page(s): 021-030
ISBN: 978-1-904670-96-4
ISSN: 2220-4342


Modal shifts are said to indicate heightened creativity in the conceptual design process. These modal shifts are traditionally detected using concurrent verbal protocols. However, it is known that verbal protocols fail in some situations such as when dealing with creativity, insight, nonverbalizable and nonconscious processes. It is an open debate in the design literature on verbal protocols whether nonconscious (nonverbalizable) processing is significant or not. We used EEG signals recorded on subjects who were asked to solve design problems on a sketch pad to detect modal shifts in concentration. We found that modal shifts in concentration were often occurring when subjects were erasing completely their previous solution and restarting a new solution from scratch (i.e. tabula rasa event), indicating heightened creativity. From EEG segments where modal shifts in concentration were deemed to be high, we performed source localization using the LORETA algorithm. Cross-checking with the physiology literature on the neurology of creativity, we found that regions of the brains associated with creativity (e.g. prefrontal lobe) were activated during modal shifts.

Keywords: Design cognition, Creativity, Human behaviour in design

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