Understanding the role of design reflection (vs rumination) in creative thinking

Saggar M, Sonalkar N, Jahanikia S, Geniesse C, Xie O .


Design reflection has been shown of critical import for the development of design expertise. We know little about how design reflection affects creative performance in individuals and teams. Previous researchers limited the study of reflection to the domain of language used and its reference to the design problem or solution space. Here, we set out to perform a cross-disciplinary investigation, across the three domains of: neuroscience, design interaction, and speech analysis, to quantify the reflection processes and link them to individual differences in creativity and design thinking both at the individual and team levels.


  • Designed and collected fMRI data from three experimental paradigms:
    • continuous multitask experiment that included 8 different cognitive tasks (including two established creativity tasks)
    • explore-exploit paradigm adapting Hart et al. 2017 work
    • naturalistic video paradigm
  • Examined how creative cognition is anchored with other well-established cognitive tasks


  1. Xie, H., Beaty, R.E., Jahanikia, S., Geniesse, C., Sonalkar, N., Saggar, M. (in revision) Spontaneous and deliberate modes of creativity: Multitask eigen-connectivity analysis captures latent cognitive modes during creative thinking . BioRxiv
  2. Sonalkar, N., Jahanikia, S., Xie, H., Geniesse, C., Ayub, R., Beaty, R., Saggar, M. (2019). Mining the Role of Design Reflection and Associated Brain Dynamics in Creativity . Design Thinking Research Understanding Innovation . Springer Verlag Publishers. Pp 155-167

Next steps

  • Examining the effect of exploration-exploitation balance on creativity
  • Examining the effect of reflection (vs rumination) on creativity and cognition
  • Developing novel methods to decode brain states while watching naturalistic passive viewing of movies


This work was supported by a research grant from the Hasso Plattner Design Thinking Research Program from Stanford University.