Divergent thinking, an aspect of creativity, is often studied by measuring performance on the Alternative Uses Test (AUT). There is however a gap in creativity research concerning how visual stimuli on the AUT are most effectively perceived. Research in memory and attention have used eye-tracking studies to reveal insights into how people think and perceive visual stimuli. Thus, the current work uses eye tracking to study how eye movements are related to creativity.
Participants orally listed alternative uses for twelve objects, each visually represented for two minutes in four different views. Using eye tracking, we specifically explored where and for how long people fixate their eyes at objects during the AUT. Eye movements before and while naming alternative uses are studied.
Results revealed that naming new instances and categories of alternative uses correlates more strongly with visual fixation towards multiple views than towards a single view of the object. Alternative uses in new, previously unnamed categories are also more likely named following increased visual fixation towards blank space. These and other findings reveal the cognitive-thinking styles and eye-movement behaviors associated with finding new ideas. Such findings may be applied to reduce fixation to existing ideas during design.