Fluctuating Epistemic Uncertainty in a Design Team as a Metacognitive Driver for Creative Cognitive Processes

Bo Christensen, Linden J. Ball

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


Previous design research has demonstrated how epistemic uncertainty engenders localized, creative reasoning, including analogizing and mental simulation. Our analysis of the DTRS11 dataset examined not just the short-term, localized effects of epistemic uncertainty on creative processing and information selection, but also its long-term impact on downstream creative processes and decisions about what information to take forward. Our hypothesis was that heightened levels of uncertainty associated with a particular cognitive referent (i.e., a post-it note translated from Chinese end-users) would engender: (1) immediate creative elaboration of that referent aimed at resolving uncertainty and determining information selection; and (2) subsequent attentive returns to that cognitive referent at later points in time, aimed at resolving lingering uncertainty and again determining information selection. Our key findings were threefold. First - and contrary to expectations – we observed that increased epistemic certainty (rather than increased epistemic uncertainty) in relation to cognitive referents triggered immediate, creative reasoning and information elaboration. Second, epistemic uncertainty was, as predicted, found to engender subsequent attentive returns to cognitive referents at later points in the design process. Third, although epistemic uncertainty did not predict the information that was eventually selected to take forward in the design space, both immediate creative elaboration and subsequent attentive returns did predict information selection, with subsequent attentive returns being the stronger predictor. We suggest that our findings hold promise for identifying more global impacts of epistemic uncertainty on creative design cognition that are possibly mediated through the establishment of lasting associations with cognitive referents.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2016
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Epistemic uncertainty
  • Design cognition
  • Creativity
  • Cross-cultural interpretation
  • Metacognition

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