Task structure, need for structure, and creativity

Eric F. Rietzschel, Marjette Slijkhuis, Nico W. van Yperen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Although creativity is often seen as requiring spontaneity and flexibility, recent work suggests that there is creative potential in a structured and systematic approach as well. In a series of four experiments, we show that when Personal Need for Structure (PNS) is high, either chronic (Study 1) or situationally induced (Study 2), creative performance benefits from high task structure. Further, in line with earlier work on cognitive fixation effects, we show that when high task structure contains an example of noncreative task execution, creative performance is impaired, regardless of individuals' PNS. Nevertheless, participants high in PNS react relatively favorably to high task structure (Study 3) and are more likely to adopt a structured task approach when given the choice (Study 4). In sum, our results show that task structure can both stimulate and inhibit creative performance, particularly for people high in need for structure. © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)386-399
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2014


  • creativity


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