Instructing children to construct ideas into products alters children’s creative idea selection in a randomized field experiment

Kim van Broekhoven*, Barbara Belfi, Lex Borghans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


Many popular pedagogical approaches instruct children to construct their ideas into tangible and physical products. With the prospect of implementation, do children decide to go for the most creative ideas or do they shift towards ideas that are perhaps less creative but easier to construct? We conducted a field experiment to test whether expected construction affects children’s creative idea selection. In this experiment, 403 children were asked to select the most original ideas to make a toy elephant more fun to play with. We randomly assigned them to a treatment condition—in which they were informed they had to construct one of the original ideas that they selected—and a control group—in which children were informed that, after idea selection, they had to perform another task. Children who were instructed to construct the selected idea into a tangible product turned a blind eye to original ideas and preferred the more feasible ideas. Thus, pedagogical approaches that aim to stimulate creativity by instructing children to construct original ideas into tangible and physical products may unintentionally change children’s choices for creative ideas. This finding highlights the importance for educators of guiding children’s decision-making process in creative problem solving, and to be aware of children’s bias against original ideas when designing creative assignments for them.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0271621
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8 August
Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 van Broekhoven et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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