Symposium Seven

New Trends in Creativity Enhancement

Organiser and Moderator: Alessandro Antonietti

Presenters: Valentina Rita Andolfi; Chiara Di Nuzzo; Barbara Colombo; Paola Pizzingrilli; Chiara Valenti; Andrea Gaggioli.

It is widely acknowledged that creativity shows peculiar characteristics at different levels. At the body level, postures and gestures are associated to the generation of unusual ideas and it is reported that specific somatic states accompany it. Thus, it is not surprising that also brain activity reveals peculiar patterns, involving specific cerebral areas, when people are engaged in creative tasks. At the level of mental processes, it is proved that some attitudes and cognitive strategies – applied both spontaneously or intentionally – foster the production of original outcomes. Finally, at the social level collaboration among individuals can increase the creative potential of teams if functional interactions among the members occur.

Research suggests that precursors of creativity can be identified at different levels and that it can be enhanced by operating at each level through appropriate techniques and modalities. The aim of the symposium is to present a set of studies, carried out within the Creativity Research Unit of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milano (Italy), supporting the efficacy of different approaches aimed at facilitating the creative process in order to provide the audience some examples of how creativity can be stimulated and improved by using a variety of methods.

In the first presentation (“Linking together body and mind: The relation between body postures and creative processes) by Valentina Rita Andolfi & Chiara Di Nuzzo it will be reported that a body posture suggesting an open-minded approach is beneficial in promoting the fluid, flexible and original generation of ideas, whereas it has no effect on the execution of a logical task. The psychophysiological counterparts of the creative process associated to “open” and “closed” postures are investigated as well.

In the second presentation (“The role of prefrontal cortex to promote creative thinking in imagining original uses of common objects”) by Barbara Colombo an experimental protocol aimed at assessing differences in the role of the prefrontal cortex in enhancing creative thinking is described. After 20 minutes of transcranial direct current stimulation, participants were presented with visual images of common objects on a neutral background. Half participants were instructed to visualize themselves while using the object in an unusual way, whereas the other half were just asked to visualize themselves while using the object. After visualization participants were asked to write down all the possible uses of the object. The expected preeminent role of the left prefrontal cortex in influencing positively the creative performance as assessed in post-stimulation performance and the moderating role of individual levels of creativity will be discussed.

In the third presentation (“When is a metacognitive approach beneficial to creativity enhancement?”) by Paola Pizzingrilli & Chiara Valenti the findings of a large study involving learners from kindergarten to high secondary schools will be analyzed. In that investigation students were engaged in a training which was implemented either by asking them to reflect on the way they carried out the creative tasks (metacognitive condition) or through an approach aimed at focusing on emotional states. Results highlighted that the metacognitive approach succeeds in increasing the post-training performance only in some aspects of creativity and mainly in the eldest students.

The history of creativity in the arts, science and technology shows that greatest innovators did not work in isolation, but were part of networks in which they could share their ideas and discoveries. The last presentation (“Networked flow: From creative individuals to creative networks”) by Andrea Gaggioli addresses such an issue by describing a model for developing an understanding of how creative networks are born and evolve. The model argues that the key to networked creativity is the development of “collaborative zone of proximal development” in which actions of the individuals and those of the collective are in balance and a sense of social presence is established. If this condition is achieved, the group has the opportunity to experiment group flow, an optimal experience which produces a long-term change relevant to both the group and its individual members. At the methodological level, the Networked Flow model identifies Social Network Analysis (SNA) as a potentially useful approach for investigating interaction dynamics that foster creative collaboration.

Presenters’ Biographies

ICIE Paris 

Valentina Rita Andolfi obtained a M.Sc. degree in Psychology of Development and Communication at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milan, where she currently is a Ph.D. student. She is engaged in design, evaluation and implementation of trainings aimed to empowerment life skills abilities in children, teenagers and adults. She has developed assessment tools to investigate flexible thinking and she conducts research on the links between body and thought processes and on academic well-being.

Alessandro Antonietti is full professor of cognitive psychology at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milano. He carried out experimental studies about creativity, problem-solving, decision-making, mental imagery and analogy. He investigated the role played by media in cognition. He is interested in the applications of cognitive issues in the field of instruction and rehabilitation. He devised tests to assess thinking skills and programs to train cognitive abilities.

Barbara Colombo is adjunct professor of general psychology at the faculty of psychology of the Catholic University of the Sacred Hearth in Milano. Her main research areas are related to multimedia, creative thinking, empowerment of cognitive skills, music psychology. She devised several trainings for the empowerment of specific life skills for both children and adults. Her experimental researches are carried on also using the recording of eye movements, psycho-physiological indices and brain stimulation (TMS and tDCS).

Chiara Di Nuzzo is Ph.D. student in cognitive psychology at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milano. Her research concerns rehabilitation, creativity and emotion, as well as music and multimedia learning. She uses different neuropsychological tools, such as tDCS, biofeedback equipment and eye-tracking technology to assess learning.

Andrea Gaggioli received a MS degree in psychology from the University of Bologna and a Ph.D. degree in psychobiology from the faculty of medicine of the University of Milan. He is currently assistant professor of general psychology at the psychology department of Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milano. His main research focus is on positive technology, a field at the intersection of human-computer interaction, neuroscience and positive psychology and he investigates how interactive technologies can be used to empower cognition and promote mental wellbeing.

Paola Pizzingrilli graduated in educational psychology at the University of Urbino and she got her Ph.D. in psychology at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milano with a dissertation focused on children’s naïve conceptions of creativity. her research areas include the investigation of creative thinking in children and adolescent with cognitive and behavior disorders. She built different tools and training to investigate the mental mechanisms related to children’s creativity. She has participated in projects focused on the role of teachers to stimulate students’ metacognitive abilities, the promotion of knowledge of celiac disease in the schools and the use of blog to favor collective self-efficacy. She is currently a collaborator in of the Service of Learning and Educational Psychology at the Catholic University of Sacred Heart of Milano.

Chiara Valenti is a psychologist; she graduated in Developmental and Communication Psychology at the Catholic University of the Sacred Hearth of Milano. She built and validated different assessment and empowerment trainings related to children' and adolescents' socio-cognitive skills. She is involved in research projects focused on different life skills, above all on creativity, and in training programs addressed to children and adults. She is currently a collaborator in the Service of Learning and Educational Psychology at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milano.