Effect of Supraliminal Priming on Team Brainstorming

By Nicole Yankelovich

Anne Massey, a professor at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business wrote to me to tell me about a recent article she co-authored with Akshay Bhagwatwar and Alan Dennis. In the paper, they describe their fascinating research on using Open Wonderland to enhance brainstorming. Here’s a pointer to their paper (PDF version) along with one of the images from the paper and the abstract.

Creative Virtual Environments: Effect of Supraliminal Priming on Team Brainstorming

Bhagwatwar, A., Massey, A., & Dennis, A. R. (2013, January). In System Sciences (HICSS), 2013 46th Hawaii International Conference on (pp. 215-224). IEEE.

Indiana-creative-priming

Three Dimensional Virtual Environments (VEs) have potential as platforms for collaboration. VEs enable members of teams, represented as avatars, to interact in a simulated world that can be designed in a variety of different ways. Research from cognitive psychology has shown that it is possible to manipulate non-conscious cognition and behavior through “priming”, a well-known phenomenon in which words and images are used to activate desired concepts in participants’ minds. In the context of team brainstorming, we posit that VEs can improve performance when specifically designed with visual objects intended to prime team members and enhance their creativity. Using Open Wonderland, an open source toolkit for creating 3D collaborative environments, we designed two VEs to support virtual team brainstorming: one looked like a generic conference hall while the other was visually designed to prime team members. Results show that when teams generated ideas in the creative VE, they generated significantly more and better quality ideas than when they worked in the generic one. In terms of key contributions, our study (1) demonstrates the efficacy of 3D VEs as collaboration spaces for facilitating team creativity, and (2) shows that the design of the VE itself can influence team performance.

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