The Alternative Uses Test is a measure of divergent thinking in which participants are asked to list non-obvious uses for a common object in a fixed amount of time. In this study, participants were asked to list alternative uses for a paperclip in three minutes. From a pool of over 2000 participants including engineering professionals and students, 293 were chosen and evaluated. Using infrequency of responses as a measure of novelty, it was found that participants that produced more responses had more novel responses and a higher average novelty score. Later responses were significantly more novel than early responses and unoriginality of responses decreased with quantity. On average, a participant would list 9 responses before arriving at highly novel responses. Participants that did not reach 9 responses in the study were likely to have few if any highly novel responses.
If this test maps to real world problem solving, it suggests that the first ideas we think of are likely to have been suggested already by others and thus not original. The results of this study can help restructure the format of the Alternative Uses Test.