Breaking away from set patterns of thinking : Improvisation and divergent thinking
This paper explores the relationship between improvisation and divergent thinking in the context of schema theory, where it is suggested that improvisation encourages people to break away from set patterns of thinking. Improvisation is the act of creating something new on the spur of the moment. Verbal improvisation is the act of spontaneously creating strings of new words, while avoiding pre-planned phrases (Sawyer, 2008). Divergent thinking was assessed using the Alternative Uses Task (AUT) before and after a treatment condition of either improvisation or control tasks. Experiment One examined verbal improvisation, while controlling for mood, and observed an increase in divergent thinking scores in terms of fluency, originality and flexibility following improvisation but not a control task. No effects of mood were found. Experiment Two examined music improvisation and also observed an increase in divergent thinking for fluency, originalityand flexibility following improvisation but not following a control condition (p<.05 in all cases). The results show that participating in verbal and music improvisation increases scores on a divergent thinking task, suggesting that improvisation may enable people to break away from set patterns of thinking as influenced by schemas (Sawyer, 2001).