The role of contextual factors in eliciting creativity: primes, cognitive load and expectation of performance feedback

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Purpose – Managers are increasingly faced with situations that call for creative ways to engage consumers and employees. With online and offline options available for creative problem solving, consumers are constantly engaging with brands to provide different solutions to everyday problems. There are numerous contextual factors that influence creative output, external primes (distal vs proximal) being one of them. This research attempts to find the boundary conditions such as cognitive load, expectations of performance feedback and optimism that interact with environmental primes to influence quality and quantity of creativity. Doing so would help managers create conditions that can enhance creative output. Design/methodology/approach – Three experiments were conducted; the first tests the interactive effect of primes and cognitive load, and the second involves the enhancing effect of expectation of performance feedback. Given that cognitive load depresses creativity and expectation of performance feedback enhances creativity, the third study finds whether optimism enhances the effects of distal primes under high cognitive load condition. Findings – Study 1 demonstrates that the boundary factor of cognitive load moderates the relative difference between proximal and distal primes: cognitive load depresses the enhancing effects of distal primes. Study 2 demonstrates that expectation of performance feedback can enhance the effectiveness of distal primes to a greater extent than proximal primes. Study 3 suggests that highly optimistic individuals can overcome the depressing effects of cognitive load when exposed to distal primes and expectation of performance feedback. Practical implications – The research demonstrates the environmental conditions that influence creative output in problem solving. Originality/value – This research attempts to highlight the importance of contextual factors in influencing creativity. In the process, this research highlights the interactive forces that deter or enhance creativity so that managers can provide optimal conditions that enhance creative output for their employees and consumers.


Copyright Emerald Group Publishing Limited 2013

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Publication Title

Journal of Consumer Marketing

Published Citation

Mousumi Bose, Judith Anne Garretson Folse, Scot Burton, (2013) "The role of contextual factors in eliciting creativity: primes, cognitive load and expectation of performance feedback." Journal of Consumer Marketing, vol.30, no.5, p.400 - 414.



Peer Reviewed