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Bhagwatwar Et Al 2013

Bhagwatwar Et Al 2013

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Published by: Said Zarouali on Nov 05, 2012
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Creative Virtual Environments:Effect of Supraliminal Priming on Team Brainstorming
Akshay Bhagwatwar Indiana Universityabhagwat@indiana.edu Anne MasseyIndiana Universityamassey@indiana.edu Alan R. DennisIndiana Universityardennis@indiana.edu 
 Much of human behavior involves non-consciouscognition. Research has shown that it is possible tomanipulate non-conscious cognition and behavior through “priming”, a well-known phenomenon fromcognitive psychology. 3-D Virtual Environments (VEs)have shown potential as platforms for virtualcollaboration. Visually oriented, VEs represent teammembers as avatars. We posit that incorporating visualelements designed to improve creativity through priming in VEs can influence team-brainstorming performance. Using Open Wonderland, we developed two environments for virtual team brainstorming: onethat looked like a traditional open office environment and one designed to prime team members for improved creativity. Participants worked in teams to generateideas on a topic. Results show that when teamsgenerated ideas in creativity primed environment, theygenerated significantly more ideas that were of better quality than when they worked in a neutral primingenvironment.
Globalization and rapid technologicaladvancements have led to widespread use of distributed virtual teams in organizations [16, 42]. Avirtual team is a group of geographically dispersed people who interact through interdependent tasksguided by a common purpose with the support of communication technology [10, 48]. These virtualteams allow organizations to pool diverse expertise and perspectives regardless of where individuals are physically located [21, 33]. By leveraging thisexpertise and the varied perspective of employees,organizations can cultivate a creative environment thatcan support innovative ideas [47].Organizations seek ways to improve efficiency,enhance knowledge capture, and more effectivelymanage content [47]. Idea exchange and groupinteraction facilitated through mechanisms likestructured brainstorming have been used byorganizations for decades to foster creativity andeffective decision-making [54]. Owing to theadvancements in Internet and technology-mediatedcollaboration tools, electronic brainstorming systemshave emerged as a replacement to traditional brainstorming mechanisms in organizations [23].Organizations are exploring platforms that facilitate theteam brainstorming process in ways that not only spark creativity but also keep team members engaged whilethey perform the task [39, 23]. Prior research in thecollaboration space focuses on team performance butnot much research has looked at the design of thecollaboration environments, its effect on individualcognition and team performance [31, 36]. In addition,while much research has focused on cognitive demands placed on individuals by collaboration platforms [1,36], only few studies suggest innovative techniques toinfluence individual cognition and team performance.3D virtual environments (VEs) offer spaces where people can work and interact in ways closest to the realworld [3]. They are enabled by simulation technologiesthat model or parallel the real world, thus providing alocus for interaction [42]. In a VE, participants actwithin a space generated by the computer. Thesesimulated spaces can support 3D representations of objects and users (represented as avatars) [17],allowing for the generation of realistic environments.With the increasing virtual nature of their employees,organizations are interested in exploring the potentialof such environments as platforms that can facilitatevirtual team collaboration.Much of human behavior involves non-consciouscognition [5, 7]. Research in information systems hasestablished that non-conscious cognition influencescore information systems constructs such as behavioralintention and perceptions of ease of use [46]. Thisresearch shows the importance of non-consciouscognition in shaping our behavior when usinginformation technology. Research in cognitive psychology has investigated the influence of 
 on non-conscious cognition and the behavior of individuals in a team [5, 6]. Priming is the activationof mental representations to influence subsequent behavior [6]. Priming is induced by presenting stimulito an individual prior to a task in an attempt to activateinternal representations of certain concepts, attitudes,or beliefs [6].Cognitive psychology studies focus on two primary ways of delivering priming subliminal(below the threshold) and supraliminal (above thethreshold). We focus on supraliminal priming in which
the individual is aware of the priming stimulus, but notits purpose. Supraliminal priming can be induced in anumber of ways such as use of specific words, auditorysignals, and visual objects presented to the individualsin a controlled environment.In this study, we examine the influence of creativity priming implemented through the visualelements of a VE on the brainstorming performance of a team. Creativity priming is a special type of supraliminal priming in which the concept of creativityis induced through use of specific objects, which varyin their shape, color, and meaning, placed in the 3DVE. The goal of this study is to understand if such priming based 3D VEs can influence individualcognition and team brainstorming performance.
2. Prior theory
Electronic brainstorming and 3D virtualworlds
Organizational teams engage in idea generationtasks with the goal of creating innovative solutions tosimple or complex problems [30]. The objective is togenerate as many creative ideas as possible such thatsome of the ideas can be further evaluated, enhanced,and implemented [25, 30]. Overall team creativity andidea generation performance is measured as a functionof idea quantity and quality [20]. Quantity of ideas can be easily measured by counting the number of ideas theteam generates. However, quality of ideas is a complexmeasure and has been conceptualized in prior researchon a number of different dimensions, such as novelty,workability, relevance, and specificity [24]. Each of these dimensions illustrates a different aspect of theoverall quality of an idea [24]. Depending on thecontext, organizations might require a team to generatelarge quantity of ideas or a few high quality ideas [18].Brainstorming has been used for many decades asan effective technique for improving team ideageneration performance [29, 45]. Organizations use brainstorming sessions as an important way to developcreative ideas [54]. Electronic brainstorming involvesuse of technology such as e-mails, text-based chat,team support systems and/or vendor specific tools tosupport the brainstorming process [29]. Electronic brainstorming systems (EBS) incorporate the bestfeatures of verbal brainstorming by facilitating ideaexchanges and allowing members to build on eachother’s ideas. EBS also minimize effects of production blocking (i.e., the need to wait to take turns duringverbal brainstorming) since team members are workingon their own computers and are not interrupted byanyone as they put up their ideas on the EBS [28, 45].In addition, anonymity of team members is known toimprove team idea generation performance since itallows members to express their ideas withoutworrying about identifying themselves [29].Much prior research on EBS has focused on howsuccessfully technology can facilitate socialinteractions and discusses whether it improves or impairs idea generation performance [31, 49]. Inaddition, much of the research has taken a black-boxapproach towards the brainstorming tools, oftenignoring the design aspects of the tool
the brainstorming environment itself. Recently, studieshave been conducted to understand the role of individual characteristics and cognition in team processes [34, 36]. For example, factors such asmember skills, cognitive ability, as well as the EBSinterface have been studied as influencers of team performance [34, 36]. Research has also looked atcognitive processes that occur in mind during ideageneration. For example, the Search for Ideas inAssociative Memory (SIAM) model looks at ideageneration as a two-staged cognitive process - the firststage is the activation of knowledge and the secondstage is the idea production in the mind [44]. In thisstudy, we specifically focus on electronic brainstorming facilitated by the different aspects of theVEs that we discuss in the following paragraphs.VEs are defined as a synchronous, persistentnetwork of people, represented as avatars, facilitated by networked computers [12]. Using advancedgraphics, designers can create VEs that possesselements such as topography, buildings and/or landscapes, and objects such as tables or chairs. Theability of VEs to offer an awareness of space, distanceand co-existence of other participants are keyconstituents for making VEs a platform whereorganizations can launch programs involvingcollaboration between teams of people [12]. VEs areoften designed to mimic complex physicalenvironments in real world such that individuals,through their avatar, perceive themselves to be presentin the VE [34, 42]. As such, VEs offer organizations arich mediated environment with the potential tosupport interactions between employees as well as withcustomers [42].VEs offer a much richer communication mediumthan traditional and commonly used communicationmechanisms like emails and instant messaging systems[42]. VEs not only provide for a visual representationof artifacts and users but also provided a convergenceof media that incorporates multiple communication
channels (text, audio, and visual based) [2, 43]. VEsalso provide an ability to the users to customize their own avatars. In addition, these avatars mimic many physical characteristics and interaction capabilities of the users leading to better engagement of users in theVE [2]. Avatars often are designed to perform anumber of animated gestures that mimic normal humannonverbal communications [43]. Such nonverbalgestures can play a vital role in collaborative tasks thatinvolve users helping identify and explain speci
cobjects or locations to other users [32].Many of the available VEs do not offer suchcollaboration capabilities directly. However, some VE platforms offer customized tools or objects such asnotepads that integrate with the VE. Users canmanipulate these using their avatar to communicateand exchange information with each other. As such,VEs replicate the look and functionalities of the realworld objects to facilitate a virtual team’scollaboration. In this study, we used an open sourceJava-based platform called
Open Wonderland 
to createVEs to facilitate the electronic brainstorming process.
Priming, individual cognition, and teamperformance
Priming is the activation of internal mentalrepresentations in an attempt to influence subsequent behavior [6]. Priming through visual objects, goals,and stereotypes have been known to have an effect onindividual cognition [4, 6]. Using priming inducedthrough different types of objects or artifacts caninfluence the behavior, attitudes, and beliefs of individuals [6, 26]. Once an individual’s mentalrepresentations have been activated, the subsequent behavior is influenced.Cognitive psychology studies focus on two primary ways of delivering priming subliminal(below the threshold of consciousness) andsupraliminal (above the threshold of consciousness)[6]. In subliminal priming, the individual is exposed tothe stimulus without being aware of it. In supraliminal priming, even though the individual is aware of the priming stimulus, he/she is not aware of its purpose.However, in both cases, the individual is not aware thatthe stimulus is activating mental representations [6]. Inthe human-computer interaction (HCI) domain,supraliminal priming experiments have been conductedto study individual behavior in a virtual setting [14,15]. These studies have found supraliminal priming toinfluence individual behavior on subsequent tasks [15].Prior research has studied a myriad of ways of  priming individuals. For example, semantic priming,that is, priming through the use of certain words, is believed to activate the semantic networks in the brain[40]. Recent research in the electronic collaborationspace builds on this belief. For example, a recent studyshows that an
achievement priming
based computer word-game can improve a team’s idea generation performance on a brainstorming task [22]. In this case,the achievement priming operates by activating thesemantic networks associated with success, motivatingthe team members to generate as many ideas as possible on the brainstorming task. The semanticnetworks are distributed nodes of information inconceptual schema represented in the brain [38]. Thenetworks began to develop as individuals interact withthe world and form a basis of semantic memory that isinterconnected to the previous associations of coreobjects, concepts or beliefs [38]. The networks areactivated and brought into working memoryautomatically, without conscious thought, whenattributes of the object concept are evoked [40].Activation of the individual’s mental representationthen influences the subsequent behavior.
2.3 Creative visual workspaces
Another theoretical thread relevant to our researchis the effect of visual creativity priming on team performance. In the physical workplace, creativeworkspaces incorporate a number of practical featuresthat lead to creative thinking [8, 13, 19]. Prior literaturehas suggested that the design of the physical work environment and the artifacts present in it has positiveeffect on creativity [8]. Even the layout or spatialarrangement of a creative space needs to be such that itdoes not resemble any aspects of the typical boringdesk-chair environment in offices [13]. For example,high visual complexity, that is, presence of manyobjects, can stimulate creativity [41]. Presence of furniture that supports social interaction and dialoguecan help foster creativity [41].Factors like presence of windows, visibility of certain natural elements like trees, flowers, and plantsinfluence creativity directly or indirectly by affectingan individual’s mood [50, 52]. For example, a highlevel of luminance leads to a positive mood, influencesideational fluency, and helps improve task performance[35]. Colors are also known to affect a person’s mood[53]. Prior research has examined the presence of certain dominant colors in the office space and their effect on human behavior, mood, and performance[53]. Visual stimulations induced through use of 

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