Creative problem solving, in which novel solutions are required, has often been seen as involving unconscious processes. Other explanations are also possible in terms of intermittent work or beneficial forgetting and weakening of misleading sets. We outline some recent studies of divergent thinking using the Alternative Uses task that we have carried out regarding immediate v. delayed incubation and the effects of resource competition from interpolated activities. A further study examined a possible link between thought suppression and incubation. These studies tend to support a role for unconscious work as against intermittent conscious work , forgetting or set weakening. What form unconscious work might take, including spreading activation as a candidate unconscious process in incubation, will be discussed.
Prof. Kenneth Gilhooly is Professor of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. His research interests include decision making, creative thinking and creative problem solving with publications related to the effects of incubation on divergent thinking.