Enhancing creativity by practice in free association while in a hypnagogic state



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Vivid images, usually arising during periods of quiet contemplation and often during the sleep onset period known as the hypnagogic state, have been lauded as a rich source of creative ideas by many writers and scientists. The present study attempted to enhance Ss' creativity through methods which involve production of vivid imagery in association to fantasy. Creativity has been defined as a fluid shifting between psychic levels, referred to by various researchers as primary-secondary, autistic-rational, unconscious-conscious. It was thought that instructing Ss to fantasize in the 'here-and-now' while in the hypnagogic state might result in optimum use of and interaction between primary and secondary thought processes. Twenty-seven undergraduate college students who were low in creativity and dogmatism served as Ss for the experiment. Ss were randomly assigned to three groups controlled for age, sex, educational level, creativity index and dogmatism scores. The Nonhypnagogic group fantasized without the aid of special apparatus, while Witkin's technique for inducing a hypnagogic state was used for the Hypnagogic group. All experimental Ss received eight individual 40-minute practice, sessions, while the Control group received no practice sessions. The three groups were compared through administration of pre- and post-tests composed of a battery of pencil and paper tests of creativity (originality, flexibility and fluency) and a perceptual test (perceptual flexibility) which has been related to creativity. It was hypothesized that Hypnagogic Ss would improve their creativity scores most, with Nonhypnagogic Ss improving less and Control Ss not improving their scores significantly. The results indicate that individuals who see themselves as relatively uncreative can improve their creativity scores through practice in fantasizing and imaging while in a hypnagogic state. It was found that Ss in the Hypnagogic group improved their post-test scores on tests of originality (p<.05) and spontaneous flexibility (p<.001) significantly more than did Ss in the Control group, as measured by the one-tailed Mann-Whitney U. In contrast, Ss in the Nonhypnagogic group did not differ significantly from the Control group Ss on their post-tests, although they showed greater improvement than the other groups on tests of fluency. Therefore, it appears that the two experimental treatments enhanced creativity in different ways, with the hypnagogic apparatus stimulating more spontaneity and originality, while free-associating without the apparatus enhanced fluency. The results are discussed in terms of Neisser's notion of focal attention. Within- group comparisons indicated that contrary to expectations, the Control group did improve significantly on four of the eight measures (Wilcoxon Matched- pairs Signed-ranks test, p<.05), and this was interpreted as a practice effect and/or systematic scorer bias favoring the post-test. In both experimental groups, three styles of responding were noted: the 'blossomers,' who learned how to image during the practice sessions; the 'lightning bolts,' who were high imagers from the beginning of the experiment; and the 'verbalizers,' who had difficulty fantasizing and imaging, preferring objective-analytic thinking. These response styles are discussed in terms of Richardson's concept of a 'visualizer-verbalizer' personality dimension. It was found that instructions derived from Perls' gestalt therapy techniques, to 'imagine your fantasies and images in the present tense, as if they were happening to you right here and now,' had a strong catalytic effect increasing the incidence of imagery and primary process material in both groups. These instructions are thought to hold promise for teaching creativity, especially in the classroom.



Creative ability, Imagery (Psychology), Sleep--Stages