Breaking ideas down into component parts facilitates creative reinterpretation
Authored By:: Joel Chan
Breaking ideas down into their component parts allows us to creatively reinterpret ideas for new purposes, such as creating a new understanding of a problem, or creatively reuse ideas in new contexts.
In insight problem solving, there is the idea of chunk decomposition (see, e.g., @knoblichConstraintRelaxationChunk1999). The basic idea goes something like this:
- People create chunks to organize experience. Knoblich characterizes Chunks as “patterns that capture recurring constellations of features or components” (p. 1535)
- Encountering a novel problem activates some chunks from past experiences. Not all of them will be helpful; and some will be actively unhelpful. And some will need to be decomposed (compression reversed??)
- Evidence for this comes from experiments where chunk decomposition was impaired, leading to worse performance on solving the problem.
@mccaffreyInnovationReliesObscure2012 has extended this idea to detail how being able to “break down” an idea or object and see its component obscure features in a function-free manner is a powerful strategy for breaking fixation by creatively recombining objects to come up with novel solutions.