Virtual Ph.D. Program VGK - Ph.D. Projects: Sabine Müller  


Ph.D. Projects

Sabine Müller

[Person] [Project]

Sabine Müller, Dipl. Psych.

Short Vita

Born in Filderstadt (Germany).
Study of Psychology at the University of Tübingen (Germany).
Graduation in Psychology at the University of Tübingen (Germany). Thesis: "Vorstudie zur Entwicklung eines primärpräventiven Seminars zur Vorbereitung auf die Erstelternschaft." [Pilot study for developing a preventive training on preparing for first-time parenthood.]
Research assistant at the Department of Social- and Personality Psychology at the Eberhard-Karls-University of Tübingen (Chair: Prof. Dr. Michael Diehl).
Since October 2003:
PhD student of the VGK (with scholarship).


Phone: ++49 (0) 7071 / 29-78346
FAX: ++49 (0) 7071 / 29-5899
WWW: My homepage

Department of Psychology
University of Tübingen
Friedrichstr. 21
D-72072 Tübingen (Germany)

Ph.D. Project

Topic: Cognitive stimulation in computer based idea generation

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. M. Diehl (Tübingen)

Start of the Ph.D. project: 10/2003


Brainstorming is a well-known and often used technique for generating ideas in groups. Previous studies have shown that idea generation in face-to-face groups results in lower performance than idea generation in nominal groups (Diehl & Stroebe, 1987). Nominal groups are control groups of people working alone (cf. Diehl & Stroebe, 1995). The superiority of nominal groups regarding the quality and quantity of ideas produced has been replicated in several empiric studies (Lamm & Trommsdorff, 1973; Mullen, Johnson & Salas, 1991). Mutual production blocking (the fact that in face-to-face groups only one person can speak at a time and the other group members have to listen without being able to express their own ideas) has been shown to be the main cause of this productivity loss in face-to-face-groups (Diehl & Stroebe, 1987, 1991). The state of research shows that the performance level of nominal groups can be reached by computer based groups when all ideas can be entered simultaneously without members being blocked by each other. However, a non-solved problem in the research on group brainstorming is the failure to find an increase in performance due to reciprocal cognitive stimulation or cross-cueing (Ziegler, Diehl & Zijlstra, 2000).

The main goal of my Ph.D. thesis is to identify conditions under which cognitive stimulation in single and interactive brainstorming is possible and increases performance. An explanation for the lower performance of brainstorming groups could be that the articulation of ideas by other group participants does not lead to cognitive stimulation, but quite on the contrary, inhibits the individual generation of ideas. Cross-cueing was also studied by Basden & Basden (1997) who ran a set of experiments on the recall of information studied by groups of individuals working together. In these experiments it was found that cross-cueing leads to collaborative inhibition. According to Basden & Basden (1997) collaborative inhibition like part-list cueing is produced by a disruption of individual retrieval strategies. From this explanation the question arises whether this disruption of retrieval strategy will also occur in the case of self-cueing instead of cross-cueing and which ideas are best for cueing in both of these settings.

Idea generation follows similar retrieval strategies like other memory tasks. Ideas are generated in clusters regarding temporal sequence and content (Diehl, 1991). The individual manner of clustering corresponds with the individual memory structure. The possibility to measure the individual temporal structure and to select ideas online was the starting point for the development of a software-based selection of stimulating ideas during a brainstorming session. Until now three experiments were run within my dissertational work to address the open questions regarding computer-supported cognitive stimulation in idea generation processes.


Basden, D.R. & Basden, B.H. (1995). Some tests of the strategy disruption interpretation of part-list cuing inhibition. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 21, 1656-1669.

Basden, B.H. Basden, D.R., Bryner, S. & Thomas R.L. (1997). A Comparison of group and individual remembering: Does collaboration disrupt retrieval strategies? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 23(5), 1176-1189.

Diehl, M. (1991). Kollektive Kreativität. Zur Quantität und Qualität der Ideenproduktion in Kleingruppen. [Collective creativity: On quantity and quality of idea generation in small groups.] Habilitationsschrift Eberhard-Karls Universität Tübingen.

Diehl, M. & Stroebe, W. (1987). Productivity loss in brainstorming groups: Toward the solution of a riddle. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53(3), 497-509.

Diehl, M. & Stroebe, W. (1991). Productivity loss in idea-generating groups: Tracking down the blocking effect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61 (3), 392-403.

Diehl, M. &Stroebe, W. (1995). Brainstorming. In Manstead, A.S.R & Hewstone, M. (Eds.). The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social Psychology. Cambridge (USA): Blackwell

Lamm, H. & Trommsdorff, G. (1973). Group versus individual performance on tasks requiring ideational proficiency (brainstorming): A review. European Journal of Social Psychology, 3(4), 361-388.

Mullen, B., Johnson, C. & Salas, E. (1991). Productivity loss in brainstorming groups: A meta-analytic integration. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 12(1), 3-23.

Ziegler, R., Diehl, M. & Zijlstra, G. (2000). Idea Production in nominal and virtual groups: Does computer-mediated communication improve group brainstorming? Group processes and intergroup relations, 3(2),141-158.

Conference contributions:

Müller, S. Ch., Diehl, M. & Ziegler, R. (2006, accepted). Cross-cuing versus self-cuing - What enhances performance in a brainstorming task? 28th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Vancouver, Canada

Müller, S.Ch. & Diehl, M. (2005). Cognitive stimulation in computer-supported idea generation. Talk at the 10. Tagung der Fachgruppe Sozialpsychologie. Jena, Germany.

Müller, S.Ch. & Diehl, M. (2005). Cognitive stimulation in computer-supported idea generation. Poster presented at the 7. Fachtagung der Gesellschaft für Kognitionswissenschaften. Basel, Switzerland.

Müller, S.Ch. & Diehl, M.(2005). Cognitive stimulation in computer-supported idea generation. Poster presented on the 27th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Stresa, Italy.

Müller, S. Ch. (2005). Cognitive stimulation in computer-supported idea generation. Presentation at the International ICO summer school 2005. Nicosia, Cyprus.



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Last update: 21 Apr 2006,