Faculty Publications

Construal Level Theory Applied To Sixth Graders' Creativity In Craft Constructions With Integrated Proximal Or Distal Academic Content

Document Type



Construal level theory, Creativity, Middle school, Psychological distance, Urban students

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Thinking Skills and Creativity



First Page


Last Page



Construal Level Theory states that focusing on distant (distal), as contrasted to near (proximal), content promotes mental levels of abstract thought increasing creative performance. Recent studies state that primed participants with distal or proximal thought content showed increased creativity when priming involved distal thought, supporting the theory. The current study's first experiment investigated if temporally, spatially, hypothetically, and socially distant academic content enhances creative performance of 24 urban sixth grade students (12 female, 12 male) in daily creative construction activities over the course of two weeks. The first experiment was a repeated measures design with distance or proximity integrated into the academic content of each lesson and alternated daily. Creative aspects of student works were scored with a rubric. Surprisingly, students displayed more creativity in the proximal condition. To test whether familiarity of topics or integration of content rather than priming was affecting results, a second one-time experiment was conducted with the same participants using priming and self-chosen topics. Similar results to the first experiment were obtained with medium-large effect sizes. The low socio-economic status and limited creative school experiences of participants may be responsible for the results. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.


Department of Curriculum and Instruction

Original Publication Date


DOI of published version