Is visual creativity embodied? Thinking aloud while performing the creative mental synthesis task

Massimiliano Palmiero, Laura Piccardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over time, the view that creativity is embodied has emerged. In order to explore if visual creativity is supported by embodied mechanisms, the simulation approach was used as a framework of reference. The idea that visual creativity relies on mental representations that implement motor processes was faced. Participants were instructed to think aloud while carrying out the Creative Mental Synthesis Task, which allows to form pre-inventive structures and interpret them according to a specific category. Two independent judges scored verbal protocols in terms of the number of motor, spatial, and visual thoughts reported during the pre-inventive and inventive phases, and also evaluated the final objects according to originality and appropriateness. Originality was predicted positively by inventive motor thoughts and by pre-inventive spatial thoughts, but negatively by inventive spatial thoughts; appropriateness was only predicted by inventive visual thoughts. These results suggest that actions for future object utilization were simulated while interpreting pre-inventive structures, increasing originality of objects. In addition, spatial transformations are useful to construct the pre-inventive structures, but not to interpret them. Yet, thinking of the pictorial details of the object is also essential to classify it in a given category. Limitations and future research directions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number455
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


  • Body
  • Creativity
  • Embodiment
  • Enacted
  • Motor
  • Sensorimotor
  • Simulations
  • Spatial
  • Visual

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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