ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2024, Vol. 32 ›› Issue (7): 1126-1137.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2024.01126

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Creative thinking from the perspective of embodied cognition

ZHANG Ke, DU Xiumin()   

  1. School of Education, Hebei University, Baoding 071002, China
  • Received:2023-08-28 Online:2024-07-15 Published:2024-05-09
  • Contact: DU Xiumin


According to the embodied cognition approach, the mind is not an isolated entity, but rather that the mind and the body form an integrated system. Indeed, bodily experiences of sensations and movements have been found to affect cognitive processes, such as memory, decision making, as well as creative thinking. Creative thinking is the kind of thinking mode that generates novel and appropriate viewpoints or products, of which divergent and convergent thinking are two common types. Up to now, numerous foreign researches of creative thinking from the perspective of embodied cognition have been reported, while domestic researches are scarce. To promote the development of domestic research, we reviewed relevant researches about embodied creativity.

This paper reviewed existing researches on embodied creativity from the aspects of perception of movement, visual sense, tactile sense and taste sense. With regard to perception of movement, this paper introduced breaking/no breaking the walls, open/closed body postures, arm flexion/extension, switching to another hand, fluid/nonfluid arm movement, free/restricted walking, and aggregation action. With regard to visual sense, this paper introduced close/distant spatial distance, direct/oblique gaze, bright/dark condition, red/blue color, order/disorder, and standing inside/outside the box. With regard to tactile sense, this paper introduced soft/hard tactical experiences, and warmth/coldness. With regard to taste sense, this paper introduced sweet/sour taste, and alcohol or non-alcohol. The above bodily experiences of sensations and movements could promote or impede creative thinking. Motivational factor, cognitive factor or emotional factor might mediate these embodied effects.

There are theories that explain the relevant embodied effects on creativity: conceptual metaphor theory, cognitive development theory and evolutionary psychology. In the conceptual metaphor theory, metaphors have been recognized as the bridge that connects the creative thinking and body. People often use familiar bodily experiences to construct abstract creative thinking through metaphor. Walls, order, standing inside the box are often perceived as rules, whereas disorder, breaking the walls, standing outside the box are often perceived as breaking rules, which could promote creative thinking. So, disorder, breaking the walls, standing outside the box could enhance creative thinking. In cognitive development theory, the schema stores a large amount of thinking, as which actions were internalized. Internalization of bodily experiences of sensations and movements could affect creative thinking. For example, close spatial distance was internalized as close relation, which promoted collaborative behaviors and collaborative creativity. In evolutionary psychology, human cognition, such as creative thinking, which is based on bodily experiences, are perceived as an "adaptor" evolved by humans to address early pressures from survival and reproduction. For example, while our body were stabbed, the red blood flowed out. So red color was perceived as association with danger, and red color could induce avoidance motivation, that was helpful to our safety in evolution. Red color could restrain creative thinking by the avoidance motivation.

Further exploration of the relationship between bodily experiences and creative thinking is demanded in the future. Previous studies paid attention to the effect of bodily experiences on creative thinking, while the effect of creative thinking on bodily experiences was ignored. So research about bidirectional associations between them is needed. Due to movement which affected signal acquisition, the cognitive and neural mechanisms of embodied effects were scarcely explored. Mental simulation and fNIRS could settle this problem. Some embodied effects could not be repeated. So the replication problem of embodied effects was needed to settle. We live in a world with multisensory experience, whose effect on creative thinking are needed to pay attention. Studies on the relationship between bodily experiences and malevolent or benevolent creativity were scarce, so related studies were needed. Finally, due to the rise of artificial intelligence, machine learning methods could be used to study embodied creativity.

Key words: creative thinking, embodied cognition, metaphor, divergent thinking, convergent thinking

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