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Poster E147

Neural Correlates of Learning Differences and Experience as Determinants of Design Fixation

Poster Session E - Monday, April 15, 2024, 2:30 – 4:30 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Dong Ho Kim1 (, Shuyao Wang1, Julie Milovanovic2, Udo Kannengiesser3, John Gero2, Evangelia G. Chrysikou1; 1Drexel University, 2University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 3Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria

Past research has shown that the inclusion of pictures as examples in design problem solving fosters designers’ propensity to adhere to those examples, a phenomenon known as design fixation. In this exploratory study, we examined whether individual differences in learning tendencies during concept building might underlie one’s susceptibility to design fixation. We hypothesized that an exemplar-based learning approach, as reflected in brain activity patterns, would amplify the impact of the examples in design problems by heightening the prominence of specific design features over the abstract relationships that bind them. Conversely, an abstraction-based learning approach might prioritize the abstract design rules governing example designs, providing protection from adhering to specific design features of the example and thus, design fixation. To test these hypotheses, mechanical engineering students participated in two experimental sessions. The first session involved completing a learning task and multiple behavioral assessments; in the second session, they underwent a functional magnetic resonance imaging scan (fMRI), while completing learning and two design tasks using a sketching tablet compatible with the imaging environment. Participants’ thought processes during task completion were captured through simultaneous verbal protocols during the scans. A classification of design events via verbal protocol analysis using the Function, Behavior, Structure (FBS) ontology for design, in conjunction with the coding of the designs produced revealed an extensive frontoparietal network of regions associated with the propensity for design fixation. We discuss the importance of adopting a real-world, multimethod approach to quantify design fixation, learning tendencies, and individual differences through diverse neurocognitive assessments.

Topic Area: THINKING: Problem solving


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