Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Roni Reiter-Palmon

Second Advisor

Lisa Scherer

Third Advisor

Lynn K. Harland


This study investigated the effects of stress on creative problem solving. It was predicted that individuals in a stressful condition would perform worse on creative problem solving tasks than individuals in a relaxed condition and worse than individuals in a stressful condition where they successfully coped with the incident. It was also predicted that when in a stressful experience, individuals who are able to acknowledge and to advantageously use the information obtained from a stressful situation (high stress utilization) would perform better on creative problem solving tasks than individuals who are not able to acknowledge and use this information (low stress utilization). Participants wrote about one of the following personal incidents: (a) a stressful incident with which they did not successfully cope (stress), (b) a stressful incident with which they did successfully cope (cope), or (c) a relaxing incident (relax). The dependent variable, creativity, was measured using three different tasks: (a) divergent thinking, (b) category combination, and (c) creative problem solving. Individuals in the stress condition generated fewer divergent thinking ideas and fewer problem solutions than individuals in both the cope and relax conditions. No differences in solution quality were found between conditions. Also, there were no differences in creative performance between individuals high and low in stress utilization. Although the stress utilization predictions did not materialize, the stress utilization measure displayed adequate internal consistency and discriminant validity. Implications regarding the influence of stress on idea generation is provided as well as suggestions for additional research on the stress utilization construct.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Psychology and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha.

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