A sketch is not enough: Dynamic external support increases creative insight on a guided synthesis task

David G. Pearson (Corresponding Author), Robert H. Logie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)


Although external representations, such as sketches, are regarded as facilitating insight during creative synthesis and design tasks, previous empirical studies have provided conflicting evidence in support of this role. Here, we argue sketches are static representations that fail to fully externalise mental imagery processes involved during creative synthesis tasks. An experiment is reported in which participants manipulate simple alpha-numeric and geometric shapes into patterns depicting familiar objects or symbols. Trials were performed using either mental imagery alone, drawing manipulations in the air with a finger, sketching manipulations on a piece of paper, or dynamically performing the manipulations on-screen using a graphics package. Results show the number of patterns correctly interpreted as recognisable objects was significantly higher in the dynamic support condition in comparison to all other conditions. Based on this finding, we argue that static forms of external support may be less effective in supporting creative problem-solving than previously believed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-112
Number of pages16
JournalThinking & Reasoning
Issue number1
Early online date1 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2015



  • creativity
  • insight
  • external support
  • mental imagery
  • mental synthesis

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