Dissection versus incubation: The within-subject effects of product dissection activities on design variety

Elizabeth M. Starkey, Mohammad Alsager Alzayed, Samuel Hunter, Scarlett R. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Product dissection is a popular educational tool in engineering design due to its ability to help students understand a product, provide inspiration for new design ideas, and aid in product redesign. While prior research has investigated how dissecting a product before idea generation impacts the creative output of the ideation session, these studies failed to look at the types of ideas generated before dissection or how the type of product dissected impacts this. Thus, the goal of the current study was to examine how product dissection impacts the solution space explored by students. Fifty-five undergraduate engineering students participated in the experiment; 40 participants virtually dissected a product, while the remaining 15 completed a personality test. The results of the study highlight that students explored new types of ideas during the second ideation session for all conditions and at all levels, with students having the biggest increase in embodiment variety when they dissected analogically far products. Overall, there were no differences in design variety between students in the dissection condition and the incubation condition. This study highlights how incubation can impact design variety and calls for further investigation of the interaction between product dissection and incubation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number012001
JournalJournal of Mechanical Design - Transactions of the ASME
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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