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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 publicationEncyclopedia of Creativity
EditorsMark A. Runco, Steven R. Pritzker
Number of pages6
Place of PublicationCambridge, MA
PublisherAcademic Press
Publication date2020
ISBN (Print)9780128156155
ISBN (Electronic)9780128156155
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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

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