Retrospective thinking occurs whenever one remembers something from the past, but one can also think retrospectively about hypothetical future events, by imagining that the event has already transpired and then working backward in the mind from the future toward the present. Designers, artists, planners, and other creative individuals utilize retrospective thinking when they mentally envision the object they wish to create and then thinkabout how it might be constructed. Some theorists and some previous research have suggested that forward and backward thinking are different cognitive processes, but there has been little investigation on the nature of these differences. This article examines the literature and describes a laboratory study designed to investigate retrospective thinking as a technique for increased idea generation. Subjects (n=64) were professional planners and managers with an average business experience of over 20 years. In a planning task, significantly more ideas were generated in the retrospective thinking mode than in the prospective mode, but the ideas were not found to be of greater quality. Evidence emerged that a subset of subjects were better able to make use of the retrospective technique, suggesting that selection along with training may be appropriate for the technique's mosteffective use.
Decision Sciences – Wiley
Published: Mar 1, 1994
Keywords: ; ;
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