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Anecdotal accounts by eminent creators have led to the idea that setting a creative problem aside during an incubation period may help the creator solve it. Originally, the term “incubation” referred to the theory that unconscious processes may be at work, but several other explanations have subsequently been proposed. Empirical evidence supports the existence of several problem-specific types of incubation effects. There is no converging evidence for any singular theory, but there is support for problem-specific incubation effects caused by different mechanisms, such as mind wandering, opportunistic encounters with facilitating cues, and the forgetting of fixating elements.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReference Module in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Psychology
EditorsJohn P. Stein
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
Publication date27 Aug 2019
ISBN (Print)9780128093245
Publication statusPublished - 27 Aug 2019


  • Analogy
  • Breaks
  • Creative problem solving
  • Creative process
  • Facilitating cues
  • Fixation
  • Illumination
  • Impasse
  • Incubation effect
  • Interruptions
  • Opportunistic assimilation
  • Prepared mind
  • Unconscious thought

Cite this

Christensen, B. T. (2019). Incubation. In J. P. Stein (Ed.), Reference Module in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Psychology Amsterdam: Elsevier.