Chasing red herrings: Memory of distractors causes fixation in creative problem solving.Mem Cognit 2018; 46(5):671-684MC
Two experiments tested the red herring retrieval hypothesis, which states that fixation in creative problem solving is worse when memory for red herrings (i.e., inappropriate or incorrect solutions) is strengthened. In Experiment 1, when associations between Remote Associates Test (RAT) problem words (e.g., COTTAGE, SWISS, CAKE) and related red herring words (e.g., hut, chocolate, icing) were strengthened via repetition, an encoding variable, fixation was found to increase. In Experiment 2, when associations were formed between RAT problem contexts and red herrings, then subsequent reinstatement of problem contexts during RAT problem solving trials (as compared with showing new contexts) also worsened fixation effects. Our results add to the increasing body of research that connects memory with creative problem solving, and they suggest possible ways for overcoming fixation effects.