Imagining Alternatives And Creative Thinking

Investigate the link between counterfactual thinking, i.e. the imagination of alternatives to reality, and creative thinking


Experimental Psychology, Cognitive Neuroscience, Medicine 

A key part of the creative process involves imagining something new, which is different from the way things currently are. Counterfactual thinking refers to this mental simulation of alternatives to reality and is ubiquitous in human thought. In this project we will examine whether encouraging people to think counterfactually can enhance creative thinking and whether individuals with a tendency to think counterfactually are more creative. Further aims include investigating the neural correlates of counterfactual thinking, and relationships between counterfactual thinking and creativity in clinical disorders. For example, Parkinson's disease is associated with impoverished counterfactual thinking. On the other hand, anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are associated with high levels of counterfactual thinking which may increase psychological distress; although, for some individuals with PTSD, counterfactual thinking may serve an adaptive and beneficial function.

The project will involve experimental, neuroimaging and clinical case work to investigate the relationship between counterfactual thinking and creativity. It links with other CogNovo projects, in particular Project 2 (investigating a range of creative products including deceptive scenarios) and Project 1, (which is also concerned with the generation of novel conceptual structures). The project will not only provide a better understanding of the processes involved in the generation of creative ideas but will also investigate ways to boost creative thinking both in healthy volunteers and clinical participants.


Essential skills: Experience or a strong interest in the study of human thinking

Desirable skills: Experience in designing or running experimental studies. Familiarity with statistics software (e.g. SPSS). 

Qualifications: Honours first degree (minimum upper second) or equivalent in cognitive neuroscience, cognitive science, psychology, or a related field. Candidates who also have a Master’s degree in these fields are especially desirable