Creative People Use Nonconscious Processes to Their Advantage

Jason Gallate*, Cara Wong, Sophie Ellwood, R. W. Roring, Allan Snyder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Although contentious, there is evidence to suggest that nonconscious processes contribute to creative output, particularly during refractory periods. However, no one has examined whether this break benefit differs as a function of creative ability. To address these issues, this investigation examined Wallas's (1926) seminal theoretical framework of creativity. More specifically, the most controversial stage postulated by Wallas, the incubation phase, was empirically tested. A regression analysis demonstrated that productivity is significantly increased when creative people activate nonconscious processes in off-task or incubation periods. There is ongoing debate about the cause(s) of this incubation effect. This research provides evidence that the incubation effect results, at least partially, from nonconscious processing and that it provides greater benefit to more creative individuals. This suggests that highly creative people should be exposed to focus problems/challenges well in advance of objective deadlines, and have freedom to generate solutions outside of structured evaluation times.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-151
Number of pages6
JournalCreativity Research Journal
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes


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