[PS-1.86] Use a spoon as a spade: electrophysiological correlates of creativity in language

Rataj, K. 1, 2, 3 , Nazareth, D. 1 & van der Velde, F. 1

1 Department of Cognitive Psychology and Ergonomics, University of Twente, Enschede, the Netherlands
2 Faculty of English, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland
3 NanoBioMedical Centre, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland

In order to investigate processes involved in creative thinking, we used a modified version of the alternate uses task (Rutter et al., 2012), for which three categories of word pairs (representing the common use (CmU), creative use (CrU) and impossible use (ImU)) were selected based on two normative studies (common uses scale and usability scale). Participants were asked to decide whether the use was (im)possible and (un)common to them. We expected that CrU will evoke a larger N400 amplitude than CmU, as the decision would require a more extensive search for semantic information in memory. As predicted, a graded effect was observed, with ImU evoking the largest, CmU the lowest and CrU the intermediate N400 amplitudes over the central and centro-parietal sites. Interestingly, sustained negativity was observed between 500 and 800ms, with a similar graded effect as in the N400 time window. We interpret this negativity as reflecting the prolonged activation of information in working memory, that may be related to the delayed response task used in the experiment. We discuss the results in light of earlier studies on novel metaphor comprehension, which show a comparable graded N400 effect, and tap into processes behind comprehending creative language.