Aarhus University Seal


Round 1 Spring 2021

Creativity in the Context of “Insights” – The Role of Feedback and Individual Personality

  • Mirza Ramic, Department of Management
  • Seednumber: 26223
  • Collaborators: Carsten Bergenholz (MGMT)


In this study we investigate how the external factor in terms of the performance feedback design affect creativity on the individual level. We furthermore investigate the moderating effect of an internal factor; individual personality measured by the Big Five Personality Traits (Costa Jr & Mccrae, 1992). The creativity construct can be conceptualized in several ways. We investigate it as a binary measure, where  creativity is reflected in the construct “insights”. An “insight” is “(…) a mental restructuring that leads to a sudden gain of explicit knowledge allowing qualitatively changed behavior.” (Wagner et al., 2004), and we investigate how the design of the feedback structure in terms of a controlling feedback structure vs. a developmental feedback structure affects the likelihood of gaining insights, and thereby the likelihood of increasing creativity among individuals. The second part of this study is about investigating how individual personality traits moderate the relations between  the likelihood of gaining insights and the design of the feedback structure.

Coping through crisis with coronamusic: positive affective bias in online musicking during lockdown

  • Niels Christian Hansen, AIAS & Center for Music in the Brain (Department of Clinical Medicine)
  • Seednumber: 26224
  • Collaborators: Rebekah Baglini, CC (LICS) and Kristoffer L. Nielbo, CAS and CHCAA


When a sweeping pandemic forced venues, schools, and social hangouts into hibernation during 2020, music life relocated online where sofas and balconies became soft and scenic stages for live-streamed concerts, with amateurs and professionals embracing digital formats and inventing novel genres of “coronamusic”. Indeed, recent findings confirm that musical activities ranked amongst the most effective, corona-compatible coping strategies during lockdown. While negative sentiment—exacerbated by prominent psychological stressors such as fear, anxiety, and uncertainty about the future—dominated the public sphere during the COVID-19 pandemic, the musical crisis responses were curiously joyful and humorous with unifying messages of cohesion and togetherness. This seed project aims to document and investigate the presence of a positive affective bias in online corona- musicking—including acts of composing, performing, sharing, discussing, and listening to music during the pandemic. Large text and music corpora with appropriately matched controls will be sourced from public Twitter datasets, discussion fora on Reddit, YouTube comments, Spotify playlists, as well as song lyrics and media coverage relating to the coronamusic phenomenon.

Emotional valence and sentiment will be assessed via cutting-edge natural language processing and music information retrieval tools and will be related to government response measures alongside geographic, demographic, and epidemiological data. This may reveal the underlying dynamics whereby the public at large used topically tailored coronamusic to build resilience and enable socio-emotional coping through crisis in an increasingly digitalized world.

Creative Cognition in Software Development

  • Jonas Frich Pedersen, School of Communication and Culture, Department of Digital Design and Information Studies
  • Seednumber: 26225
  • Collaborators: Nidas Nouwens, CC


Software development is a central profession in the 21st century, and while much research has focused on the productivity of software developers, creativity is often overlooked. This project employs a mixed methods approach towards assessing the role of creativity in professional software development. An initial online survey followed up with in-depth interviews will establish how different stakeholders perceive the role of creativity for software development and which aspects are deemed the most important factors affecting creativity. This is followed up by an experience sampling study, using a custom built sampling tool which will allow us to examine the correlation between the tools and self-rated creativity. These contributions will lay the foundation towards new digital tools to support creativity in software development.

A view on children’s creativity from a micro-phenomenological

  • Mihaela Taranu, School of Communication and Culture and IMC
  • Seednumber: 26226
  • Collaborators: Savhannah Schulz, DPU and Pascal Frank, Leuphana University


Children’s creativity is very poorly understood; most research focuses on the outcomes of the creative process rather than the process itself. This is partly due to its complex nature and to limitations in methodological approaches. When assessing children’s creativity, the norm is to use objective methods (i.e. third person perspectives), while subjective methods (i.e., first-person perspectives) are ignored or discouraged. There is a common mistrust towards subjective reports, which is especially pronounced in the literature focusing on children. It is believed that children are extra-prone to confabulations and that interviewees need to pay special attention to adapt their techniques to the needs and capacities of the children. In this project we would like to explore if the interview and analysis technique of micro- phenomenology (MP) could present a novel approach for this field as the method has been particularly developed to minimize problematics of self- reports. Finding and documenting a suitable protocol for conducting MP interviews with children will open the gate for exploratively understanding and accounting for children’s subjective experiences in various activities. Simultaneously, a MP approach to the study of creativity in children might crucially foster our understanding of this massively understudied research field.

NaturalLanguageProcessing4All (NLP4All): Expanding the Platform

  • Rebekah Baglini, School of Communication and Culture - Semiotics
  • Seednumber: 26227
  • Collaborators: Arthur Hjorth, Department of Management


Natural Language Processing offers new insights into language data across almost all disciplines and domains, and allows us to corroborate and/or challenge existing knowledge. The primary hurdle to widening participation in and use of these new research tools is a lack of coding skills in students across K-16, and in the population at large. To broaden participation in NLP and improve NLP-literacy, this project takes a design-based research approach to designing NLP-tools for non-programmers. The project identifies a small set of core NLP-concepts and design and assess a technology-based classroom intervention to teach these methods to a wider audience consisting primarily of non- or novice-programmers.

Round 2 Summer 2021

Language and types of abstract concepts: A dual-task interference study

  • Johanne Nedergaard, Department of Linguistics, Cognitive Science and Semiotics
  • Seednumber: 26229
  • Collaborators: Anna Borghi, Sapienza University of Rome


Many researchers have suggested that the processing of abstract concepts depends on language with a recent study (Villani et al., 2019) arguing that some abstract concepts, such as those that are negotiated through social interactions, could be more reliant on language than others, such as physical, spatiotemporal, and quantitative concepts. In this study, we aim to test the role of language in the processing of different categories of abstract concepts by having participants solve odd-one-out problems while engaging in either verbal or nonverbal secondary interference tasks. We also include a control condition with no interference. After the dual-task section of the experiment, participants will be asked to rate the abstract concepts on Modality of Acquisition, Age of Acquisition, and Social Metacognition as well as fill out a short questionnaire on their own social behaviour (adapted from the Autism-Spectrum Quotient Scale). If linguistic resources are needed for processing abstract concepts, we predict that response time for the odd-one-out task will be slower and accuracy with be lower in the verbal interference condition compared with the nonverbal interference and the control condition. Further, if some categories of abstract concepts rely more on linguistic resources than others, we predict that there will be significant differences in how much the four categories are affected by verbal interference. If our hypotheses are confirmed, this will provide support for the idea that language – both as it occurs internally and between people – plays an important role in the formation and negotiation of abstract concepts as well as the later processing of them.

Skill and cognition in children’s play object – a museum-based study

  • Marc Malmdorf Andersen, Interacting Minds Center & Sheina Lew-Levy, Department of Psychology, Simon Fraser University & Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies, Aarhus University
  • Seednumber: 26230
  • Collaborators: 
    Felix Riede, Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies, Aarhus University
    Noa Lavi, Department of Anthropology, University College London
    Ulrik Høj Johnsen, Moesgård Museum


Object play may be foundational to the development of the creativity by which humans manufacture, adapt, and invent new tools. Museum collections afford an important resource for shedding light on children’s play objects because the artefacts themselves are often associated with detailed records, and because they can be directly compared with adult material culture from the same cultural contexts. We propose to work with the Moesgård Museum to develop a systematic protocol for analyzing children’s objects. This protocol will focus on (1) developing a typology of children’s objects, including the form, function, and context of use, (2) recording manufacturing processes using established operational chain approaches, (3) identifying attributes which may point to the skill level/age of manufacturers, and (4) inferring the cognitive load incurred during manufacture/use drawing on cognigrammetry. This project will shed light on the role of material culture in cognitive priming for creativity throughout development.

Immorality at the end of the tunnel: The effect of scarcity-induced focus regulation on ethical blind spots

  • Caroline Kjær Børsting, Department of Management
  • Seednumber: 26231
  • Collaborators: 
    Christian T. Elbæk, Department of Management
    Panagiotis Mitkidis, 
    Department of Management
    Joshua Skewes, School of Communication and Culture


Most of us perceive ourselves as moral people, yet we do also occasionally fall prey to the temptation of engaging in lucrative but immoral practices. In the quest of escaping the moral dissonance that often follows, we resort to ever more creative ways of justifying our immoral behavior. Recent research suggests that ethical blind spots in individuals’ eye movements could serve as a remedy to resolve this internal quandary and thus have a facilitative effect on immorality: “if we have not seen the immoral information, we cannot act upon it”. While various personality trials are suggested to affect individuals’ inclination to engage in such self-deceptive behavior, research on how contextual factors such as relative resource scarcity influence this relationship is lacking. In this experiment we test, for the first time, how relative resource scarcity is manifested in gaze patterns and specifically whether such gaze patterns are predictive of unethical conduct. Our research aims to outline theoretical and practical implications of how contextual factors influence the use of self-serving justifications, in turn influencing the magnitude of unethical conduct.

Frightened together: A neuroscientific attempt to dissolve the paradox of horror

  • Jens Kjeldgaard Christiansen, Department of English
  • Seednumber: 26232
  • Collaborators: 
    Marc Malmdorf Andersen, Interacting Minds Center
    Mathias Clasen, Department of English
    Daina Crafa, Interacting Minds Center
    Jannik Wiggers, Cognitive Semiotics


Players of horror video games willingly simulate dangerous scenarios that induce fear and anxiety. We propose a neuropsychological investigation of the paradoxical appeal of horror video games. Specifically, we will employ functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to investigate the neural correlates of 30 players’ fearful experiences with Phasmophobia, a popular horror video game that can be played either alone or cooperatively. We hypothesize that players’ enjoyment of the horror video game will be reflected in the simultaneous activation of positive emotions with the negative emotions that are characteristic of horror video gameplay. This positive emotional co-activation may explain players’ motivation to play frightening games. In addition, because the pleasures of horrific media are often supposed to be social in nature, we will investigate the extent to which cooperative gameplay promotes synchronized experiences of positive and negative emotion between participants engaged in cooperative video gameplay. 

Creatures of the Lines: Collaborative Learning with the Ecological Worlds of British Canals

  • Heather A. Swanson, Department of Anthropology
  • Seednumber: 26233
  • Collaborators: Sonia Levy, independent artist


Through an in-depth exploration of England’s canals, this collaborative art-research project asks: 1) How have desires for economic growth and linear progress produced literally straight forms in the lands and waters around us? 2) What are the risks associated with the conversion of once-curvy and braided worlds into linearized landscapes? The approximately 4700 miles of canals carved into England’s terrain were essential infrastructures of its industrial revolution, linking inland factories to coastal ports and coal mining regions. The project explores the histories and presents of these canals and their ecological worlds through a combination of moving image, historical, and natural science methods, culminating in an artist film to be screened in multiple European countries and beyond. IMC funding will allow this project, initially commissioned by the UK art organization Radar, to substantially expand its scope, its collaborations with natural scientists, and its creative use of natural science methods. This will not only enrich the film but also produce new natural science practices for researching canals’ vastly understudied ecologies and much-needed basic knowledge about canal lifeworlds.

Public Engagement with Climate Change and Future Pandemics

  • Brandi S. Morrison, Department of Management
  • Seednumber: 26234
  • Collaborators: 
    Katharine Hayhoe, Department of Political Science, Texas Tech University
    Tom van Laer, University of Sydney Business School
    Hashem Alghaili, Science Communicator & Social Media Influencer


Although there is a vast literature in the humanities and arts discussing the rhetorical use of storytelling and growing interest in how they might function as forms of evidence, little is known about how narrative structure influences social media engagement with science communication or the underlying mechanisms of this engagement. Testing video content released into the wild by a well-known science communicator and social media influencer, this research investigates the question, ‘are videos (about how climate change could affect future pandemics) structured as stories more effective for triggering climate change engagement on Facebook and YouTube than analytical (typical science-communication- format) videos?’ Using three real-world digital experiments on Facebook and YouTube and one lab study, we assess the influence of narrative structure on digital engagement, risk perception, outcome efficacy, pro-environmental behavior, and measures of autonomic reactivity indicative of emotional arousal.

ArguNotes: a tool for collaborative scientific argumentation

  • Janet Rafner, Department of Management
  • Seednumber: 26235
  • Collaborators: 
    Arthur Hjorth, Department of Management
    Clemens Klokmose, Center for Digital Creativity


Creative thinking and scientific argumentation are essential skills for success in the 21st century. The facilitation of these skills are receiving increasing attention in class-rooms around the world through various inquiry-based activities. There are many examples of teachers successfully implementing this through ingenuity and dedication, but if these approaches are to scale to benefit all students scaffolding tools will have to be developed. Therefore, how technology and digital interactions can facilitate these skills is becoming a key topic in research in many disciplines including human computer interaction, learning sciences, and cognitive science. 

In this project we explore how groups of learners together divergently explore and converge on ideas, data, and explanations during scientific reasoning tasks. We propose to do this by constructing a concrete addition to an already existing malleable software environment, Webstrates, created by the Center for Digital Creativity at AU. With this grant we will be able to construct and apply the upgraded tool in concrete school settings to validate the approach.

Round 3 Fall 2021

When no one is an expert: mapping research funding outcomes during Covid-19 in Denmark

  • Emil Bargmann Madsen, Danish Centre for Studies in Research and Research Policy, Dept. of Political Science
  • Seednumber: 26236
  • Collaborators: 
    Ea Høg Utoft, Danish Centre for Studies in Research and Research Policy, Dept. of Political Science
    Christine Parsons, Assoc. Prof., Dept. Clin. Medicine


The speed and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic have spurred both private and public research funders alike to setup earmarked funding calls aimed at soliciting projects to help ameliorate its societal impacts. Many funders have provided surprisingly large grants with short application deadlines and very little turnaround time in the peer review stage. While possibly beneficial to accelerated knowledge generation, few and large project grants, combined with short deadlines and fast evaluation, may have unintended negative consequences for the career paths of junior and female researchers. The COVID-19 pandemic has generally had differential negative effects on female and early career researchers in terms of research time and productivity. Coupled with funders’ focus on short deadlines and applications from more experienced researcher could possibly have exacerbated already skewed success and funding rates. We will investigate who applied and received funding from major Danish research funders during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Through data on individual funding outcomes, we compare success rates for male vs. female, and early vs. later career researchers. We are interested in whether earmarked COVID-related funding have led to more unequal funding outcomes compared to both non-COVID grant competitions, and past funding competitions. Furthermore, COVID-related funding have possibly necessitated a shift in research focus for applicants. By comparing both earmarked and non-earmarked funding decisions, we will examine who is better equipped to shift their topic portfolio in response to funding opportunities. The project highlights how exogenous shocks to a national research funding system provide research opportunities for some and can act as a career inhibitor for others. 

Perceptual and cognitive properties of abstract decoration

  • Rie Bloch, Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies
  • Seednumber: 26237
  • Collaborators: 
    Niels Nørkjær Johannsen, Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies
    Kristian Tylén, IKS – Cognitive Science


The role or function of abstract, non-figurative decoration in material culture is a somewhat understudied problem for the humanities and cognitive-behavioural sciences (Gell 1998). In an effort to address aspects of this complex, we address the composition of abstract decorative patterns found on ceramic vessels from the Neolithic of southern Scandinavia. In this context, elaborately decorated vessels appear to play a key cultural role in interactions between the living, and between the living and the dead through ritual. Employing network analyses on decorative elements, we have previously established that some decorative elements are closely interdependent (visually and systemically) but also, perhaps more surprisingly, that the most central organising element in these patterns are the undecorated, ‘blank’ spaces (Bloch & Johannsen forthcoming). While such structuring principles in the decoration may potentially be understood as a kind of syntax, these analyses leave unanswered questions about the basic perceptual and cognitive qualities of the patterns when observed, compared or reproduced by subjects. In this project, we take an experimental approach and use the original patterns extracted from Neolithic ceramic vessels as stimuli in a suite of perceptual experiments. Participants will be presented with decorative patterns representing different variations of composition and are asked to perform simple tasks while we record their choices and reaction times. We hypothesize that decoration elements positioned centrally in relation to blank spaces are more salient, more memorable and more easily reproducible, which – we speculate – is the original motivation for the emergence and prevalence of this compositional trait.

Developing a Research Podcast on Play for Scientific Communication & Dialogue

  • Savhannah Schulz, IMC
  • Seednumber: 26238
  • Collaborators: Kim Holflod, Danish School of Education & University College Copenhagen


What is play? And what do we know about the topic of play from a scientific perspective? This podcast series invites researchers to discuss their work and findings on the topic and engage in a dialogue on the implications and limitations of our current understanding of play. Topics may include the role of play in education, play across cultures, the dark sites of play, and cognitive understandings of its workings.

The Effects of Financial Scarcity and Perceived Security Threats on Unethical Economic Behavior

  • Christian T. Elbæk, Dept. of Management, AU
  • Seednumber: 26239
  • Collaborators: 
    Panagiotis Mitkidis, Assoc. Prof., Dept. of Management, AU 
    Lene Aarøe, Assoc. Prof., Dept. of Political Science, AU
    Tobias Otterbring, Prof., University of Agder, Norway
    Guy Hochman, Senior Lecturer, IDC Herzliya, Israel


Resource scarcity is prevalent throughout the world and has been shown to make individuals more impulsive, risk-seeking, and prone to engage in unethical behavior for monetary gains. By using nationally representative samples from Denmark and Israel, this study examines how activating cognitions related to scarcity affect moral decision-making of individuals’ experiencing differing levels of chronic resource scarcity and how perceptions of present security threats may moderate this relationship. Specifically, we investigate how individuals (N = 1400) with different levels of socioeconomic status act when being reminded of possible financial scarcity in an economic choice task that incentivizes unethical behavior.  Activating cognitions related to scarcity is done through a well-validated task and we measure objective and subjective levels of socioeconomic status, perceptions of present security threats, and self-control of all participants. We hypothesize that individuals with low SES being reminded of financial scarcity will act in a more unethical way that individuals with higher levels of socioeconomic status. Furthermore, we expect that perceptions of present security threats will moderate this relationship. The research contributes to a systematic understanding of moral decision-making of resource deprived individuals, which has vital implications for policy-making aimed at understanding and possibly alleviating a series of problems stemming from poverty and inequality.

The Creative Potential of Evolving Constraints in Peer-to-Peer Reciprocal Coaching – A Three-way Investigation

  • Alan O’Leary, School of Communication and Culture, Dept of Media and Journalism Studies, AU
    Martin Høybye, School of Culture and Society, Dept of Archaeology and Heritage Studies, AU  
  • Seednumber: 26240
  • Collaborators: 
    Marie Hallager Andersen, dance artist and trained Liz Lerman Critical Response Process facilitator
    Project advisor: Michael Mose Biskjær, School of Communication and Culture, Dept of Information Science, AU 


Creative constraints, the imposition of arbitrary restrictions on choices of content, form or process in creative projects, have been shown to produce inspiration and innovation. This project will gauge the role and utility of ‘evolving’ creative constraints (constraints that are adapted or replaced in response to work in progress) in achieving effective development in three creative project types: the writing of a song, the composition of an academic videoessay, the making of a dance and film piece. These three types will function as case studies to assess the creative potential of evolving constraints per se. Based on attested feedback techniques from dance and art practice, and on game-like procedures in experimental collaborative filmmaking, we will trial a form of interdisciplinary peer-to-peer reciprocal coaching designed to generate evolving (sets of) constraints that can guide a project to unexpected creative places. The three makers — a songwriter, a video essayist and a dance artist-filmmaker — will coach and goad each other to greater originality and achievement through the provision of challenging constraints which the makers will have to ‘satisfy’. Analysis of this experience will inform the articulation of a set of protocols for the setting of generative creative constraints in reciprocal peer-to-peer creative coaching with particular reference to practice research contexts, though it is expected that the coaching method will have applications in many other contexts. 

Inter-brain dynamics of interpersonal synchrony during continuous auditory-motor rhythm production

  • Anna Zamm, School of Communication and Culture, Cognitive Science, AU
  • Seednumber: 26241
  • Collaborators: 
    Andreas Hojlund, AU CogSci
    Cordula Vesper, AU CogSci
    Peter Vuust, AUAU MiB
    Thomas Wolf, Central European University
    Anna-katharina Bauer, Oxford University
    Natalie Sebanz, Central European University
    Stefan Debener, University of Oldenburg


Interpersonal synchrony - the temporal coordination of actions between individuals - is fundamental to many human social behaviours, from group music-making to team sports. Emerging evidence from cognitive neuroscience suggests that interpersonal synchrony arises from inter-brain coupling of partners' cortical sensorimotor activity. One open question is how inter-brain coupling contributes to continuous dynamics of interpersonal synchrony during ongoing interaction. The proposed EEG hyperscanning project addresses this question using a novel joint musical rhythm production task. Pairs of human subjects will synchronously produce circular rhythmic motions on a circular touch-sensor; partners' touch locations on the sensor will be turned into sound (sonified) such that partners can synchronize movement via auditory feedback, as typically occurs during group music-making. EEG will be simultaneously recorded from partners  Partners' behavioural synchrony will be assessed by computing the Continuous Relative Phase (CRP) of partners' movement on the touch sensor. Partners' inter-brain synchrony will be assessed by computing CRP of partners' cortical oscillatory activity in frequency bands typically associated with sensorimotor processes. Most critically, behavioural and neural CRP dynamics will be correlated to assess the fundamental question of how inter-brain coupling contributes to the continuous dynamics of interpersonal synchrony during ongoing interaction.