When Is a Cognitive System Flexible? The Variability–Stability–Flexibility Pattern on the Way to Novel Solutions

Thea Ionescu


Creativity and flexibility are considered by many to be inextricably linked. However, the current literature does not offer a clear view about their relationship and flexibility is not a unitary construct in psychological research. In this work, I present a new theoretical approach that considers flexibility a recurrent property in and of the cognitive system and I argue that flexibility is best understood as a link in the variability–stability–flexibility pattern. Investigating this pattern and looking at the dynamic flow from variability to stability and then to flexibility in the functioning of the cognitive system can lead us to better grasp how the system arrives at novel solutions in creative problem solving.


creative problem solving; flexibility; pattern; property

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