Campus Units

Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Version

Published Version

Publication Date


First Page


Conference Title

2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Conference Date

June 15-19, 2019


Tampa, FL


Engineering programs, in general, do not explicitly address the need to enhance divergent thinking. To a certain extent this is due to a lack in knowledge on the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying divergent thinking, and creative ideation more generally. We hypothesize that we can help enhance our students’ divergent thinking and creative processing outcomes by investigating the impacts of carefully selected methods and tools enabled by developments in the robust analysis of engineering ideation performance, and neurocognitive responses to creativity.

In this paper, we present an experiment using the Event-Related brain Potentials (ERP) technique and creative language use (funded by Core R&D Programs). More specifically, we collected ERP responses to literal, nonsense, and novel metaphorical sentences that were either referring to engineering knowledge or general knowledge, testing engineering and non-engineering students. Following Rutter et al. [1], sentences differed in verb only and had been classified in prior sentence norming studies as highly unusual and highly appropriate (novel metaphors), low unusual and highly appropriate (literal sentences), and highly unusual and low appropriate (nonsense sentences). Participants read sentences while their EEG was recorded, and after reading the sentence made judgments about its unusualness and appropriateness. The findings indicate that prior knowledge modulates novel metaphor processing at the stage of lexico–semantic access, indexed by the amplitude of N400 component. Specifically, N400 amplitudes to novel metaphorical sentences are significantly reduced and pattern with literal sentences in engineers; in nonengineers, by contrast, we observed increased N400 amplitudes to novel metaphorical sentences that pattern with anomalous sentences. This mirror effect on the N400 corroborates recent findings demonstrating a strong impact of prior experience and expertise on meaning ambiguity resolution, which may in turn have implications for creative cognition.


This proceeding is published as Jonczyk, Rafal, Janet van Hell, Gül E. Okudan Kremer, and Zahed Siddique. "Neurocognitive Evidence on the Impact of Topical Familiarity in Creative Outcomes." Paper ID #26595. 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Tampla, FL. Posted with permission.


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Copyright Owner

American Society for Engineering Education



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