The Role of Imagination in Exemplar Generation: The Effects of Conflict and Explanation


Structured imagination refers to reliance upon prior knowledge when generating novel examples of a provided category. Yet studies supporting this tenet use experimental designs where the stimuli themselves cue exemplars based on culturally relevant items. The present study combined exemplar generation with abstract stimuli as a means of attenuating instructional bias. Participants were shown a group of abstract shapes identified as a single category and instructed to generate another member of this category. We additionally examined whether the introduction of a cognitive conflict (by including an anomalous category member) and self-explanation during generation affected the level of imaginative responses. Contrary to expectations, the presentation of a conflicting category member did not result in more imaginative responses when compared to more homogenous stimuli sets. However, a significantly greater degree of imaginative responses was observed from participants who were required to explain their thinking prior to and whilst constructing their exemplars.

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