The Withers Survey: Studying the presence or use of incubation in the creative process

Everyone has their reasons...

“Why are you creative?” from KKB101 lecture, 2011, QUT

Last year I conducted a survey on creativity, mainly among friends and family, but also with some random people I found in the uni computer labs.  I asked everyone I knew, “Are you creative?  Would you like to talk about that?” and many people said yes.  Consider this thanks and an acknowledgement of those who spent time and effort doing my survey.

As a brief introduction, the Withers Survey studied the presence of or use of an incubation period in the creative process.  The traditional theory of a universal creative process is Wallas’s four-stage creative process (1945), which I have discussed in an earlier post on the topic of incubation.  The four-stage process identifies four stages common to most creative disciplines (Davis, 2004, 121-124; CreativeIntensive, 2007):

  1. Preparation in exploring and clarifying a field or concept;
  2. Incubation, a fringe consciousness or unconscious activity related to the idea;
  3. Illumination or the moment of discovery; and
  4. Verification of the result.

My hypothesis was that most people who consider themselves ‘creative’, or have been labelled ‘creative’ by others, engage in some form of incubation as part of their creative process.  This post will discuss the preliminary results and the survey itself.

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