When to incubate? The effects of fixed and discretionary incubation schedule on creative problem solving

Lok Yuen Eden CHAN

Research output: ThesisMaster's Theses


Objectives: Previous studies suggested that incubation, i.e., taking a break, helps in overcoming fixation. This study aims to investigate whether a fixed incubation schedule leads to a larger facilitating effect on problem-solving performance, as compared with other incubation schedules (i.e., no incubation or at an individual’s discretion). Methods: 140 participants were invited through online invitation and randomly assigned into three groups: “fixed incubation schedule” group, “discretionary incubation schedule” group and “no incubation” group (control group). A 3 (conditions: discretionary incubation condition, no incubation condition and fixed incubation condition) X 2 (divergent thinking tasks: category exemplar generation task and alternative uses task) mixed ANOVA was carried out on the performances of the tasks. The creative performances were assessed in term of quantity, diversity, quality and novelty of ideas generated. Results: Participants in the fixed incubation group got significantly higher score in term of quality than no incubation group (F = 5.416, p = .005, p < .05). There was no significant interaction effect among the three groups was found. Conclusions: The study result confirmed the positive effect of incubation in overcoming fixation. It was found that a fixed incubation schedule can enhance creativity performances in term of the quality of responses. It is suggested to extend the study field of incubation schedule by allowing participants to have more discretion on their own incubation schedule. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationMaster of Social Sciences
Awarding Institution
  • The Education University of Hong Kong
  • SIO, Ut Na, Supervisor
  • YEUNG, Siu Sze 楊少詩, Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Incubation
  • Unconscious work
  • Conscious work
  • Timing of incubation
  • Incubation schedule
  • Divergent thinking task
  • Creativity
  • Creative problem-solving
  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Thesis (M.Soc.Sc(Psy))--The Education University of Hong Kong, 2019.


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