Staff Profile


Dr Ian Hocking

Interim Director of Psychology

School: School of Psychology, Politics and Sociology

Campus: Canterbury

Tel: 01227 923277

Profile summary

Undergraduate Psychology Programme Director (2017 - 2019).

Director of Psychology (2019 -).

Following a PhD in psycholinguistics from the University of Exeter, which looked at the role of working memory in syntactic assignment, I worked variously at the Open University, the Higher Education Academy, and back at Exeter, before taking up a lectureship at Canterbury Christ Church University. Here, I've continued my language research but become more interested in creative problem solving and what we can do to improve it.

Research and knowledge exchange

Everything starts with an idea, and these are triggered by the recognition that something isn't quite right or good enough. But where do ideas come from? How do people even recognise that there is a creative problem to solve? Over the past few years, and with my colleague David Vernon, I've been looking at tools claiming to boost creative problem solving abilities.

Two techniques in particular are very interesting: the Six Hats Technique and the Six Men. The Six Hats Technique (SHT) was put forward by Edward de Bono (1992). It's a way to help people think in broader, different ways. Each of the six metaphorical hats is given a different colour and associated with a particular style of thinking. By addressing the questions associated with each hat, thinkers should be able to thoroughly explore a wider variety of issues, facts, implications, and alternatives---these should aid the thinking proces. By changing hats, the individual can change viewpoints, and this helps to ensure that they don’t get stuck in their thinking patterns. Another technique is the Six Men Technique (SMT; Kipling, 1993), which involves applying the question words ‘who, what, why, when, where and how’ to generate different perspectives.

When we give peiople these techniques to use on problems, we look for:

  • Fluency: How many responses to the problem do they produce?
  • Flexibility: How many different ideas?
  • Quality: How good are these ideas?
  • Originality: How original are they?

To measure these things, we get indepdent coders to help us.

So far, we've discovered evidence that the Six Hats can help with originality, while the Six Men is good for fluency. We've publicised and disseminated these findings in the UK and at international conferences. However, the story isn't clear cut! This is still a work in progress. Check out our website.

Teaching and subject expertise


MPSMD2RES Research Methods - Convenor


MPSTH4CTC Creativity and Cognition

MPSTH4CBP Cognitive and Biological Psychology

Masters by Research

I have supervised one PhD to a successful completion and currently am a second supervisor for two candidates.


Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.


ILLUME: The Creativity Research Network

The Whitstable Biennale

Defence Academy of the United Kingdom

Other Roles

Frontiers Guest Associate Editor 2017-18

External activities

van Broekhoven, K., Belfi, B., Hocking, I. & van der Velden, R. (2019). The Effect of Training in Creative Problem-Solving on Idea Generation and Idea Evaluation Accuracy. Presented at the UK Creativity Conference, 22 May 2019, University of Lancaster.

Hocking, I. (2017). Further explorations of enhancing creative problem solving via structured thinking techniques. Invited talk presented as part of the Development and Utilization of Human Resources (DUHR) Series, 30 May 2017, University of Maastricht, The Netherlands.

Gooderson, M. C., Bilton, C., Hocking, I. & Hunter, J. (2017). How Researching Creativity Changes You. Panel presented at the Crossing Creativity Symposium, 25 May 2017, University of Westminster.

Dempster, T., Hocking, I., Vernon, D., & Snyder, H. (2017). Enhancing Creative Problem Solving and Creative Self-Efficacy: A Preliminary Study. Presented at the UK Creativity Conference, 17 May 2017, Edinburgh Napier University.

Hocking, I., & Vernon, D. (2017). The Golden Path: First Steps in Establishing Order for Two Creative Problem Solving Techniques. Presented at the UK Creativity Conference, 17 May 2017, Edinburgh Napier University.

Vernon, D. & Hocking, I. (2016). Exploring Conceptual Distance Using a Novel Clock Face Paradigm in a Creative Problem-Solving Task. Presented at the American Psychological Association 2016 Annual Convention, 4-7 August 2016, Denver, Colorado.

Vernon, D. & Hocking, I. (2016). Six Thinking Hats Versus Six Good Men: Does the Order of the Elements Matter? Presented at the American Psychological Association 2016 Annual Convention, 4-7 August 2016, Denver, Colorado.

Hocking, I. & Scott, T. (2016). Mean, Mode, Medium (talk). Presented at The Whitstable Biennale. 10 June 2016, Whitstable, Kent.

Scott, T. & Hocking, I. (2016). Mean, Mode, Medium (contemporary art installation). Presented at The Whitstable Biennale. 4-12 June 2016, Whitstable, Kent.

Hocking, I. & Osthaus, B. (2016). The Evolution of Language. Presented at the CCCU Science Society, 24 May 2016, Canterbury Christ Church University.

Hocking, I. & Vernon, D. (2015). Applying Structured Techniques in a Problem Construction Task. Presented at the American Psychological Association 2015 Annual Convention, 6-9 August 2015, University of Toronto, Canada.

Hocking, I. & Vernon, D. (2015). Have you tried ‘brain breathing’? Structured thinking and problem construction. Presented at the BPS Cognitive Psychology Section conference, 1-3 September 2015, University of Kent.

Vernon, D., & Hocking, I. (2015). Comparing structured thinking tools on a problem construction task using an ill-defined problem. Presented at the BPS Cognitive Psychology Section conference, 1-3 September 2015, University of Kent.

Publications and research outputs

Hocking, I. (2019) Portrait of an Artist as Collaborator: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of an Artist. Frontiers in Psychology, 10 (251). pp. 1-10.

Hocking, I. & Vernon, D. (2017). A bridge too far: Conceptual distance and creative ideation. Creativity: Theories, Research, Applications, 4(2), pp. 333-352. DOI: 10.1515/ctra-2017-0017.

Hocking, I. & Vernon, D. (2017). The right tool for the right task: Structured techniques prove less effective on an ill-defined problem finding task. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 26C, pp. 84-91. DOI: 10.1016/j.tsc.2017.08.001

Vernon, D. & Hocking, I. (2016). Beyond belief: Structured techniques prove more effective than a placebo intervention in a problem construction task. Thinking Skills and Creativity, pp. 153-159. DOI: 10.1016/j.tsc.2015.10.009

Vernon, D., Hocking, I., & Tyler, T. C. (2016). An evidence-based review of creative problem solving tools: A practitioner's resource. Human Resource Development Review, 1-30. doi:10.1177/1534484316641512.

Hocking, I. (2015). Solaris and 'The Other'. The Psychologist, 28(10).

Vernon, D. & Hocking, I. (2014). Thinking hats and good men: Structured techniques in a problem finding task. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 14, 41-46. doi: 10.1016/j.tsc.2014.07.001

Hald, L., Hocking, I., Vernon, D., Marshall, J.-A., & Garnham, A. (2013). Exploring modality switching effects in negated sentences: Further evidence for grounded representations. Frontiers in Psychology, 4. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00093

Osthaus, B., Proops, L., Hocking, I., & Burden, F. (2012). Spatial cognition and perseveration by horses, donkeys and mules in a simple A-not-B detour task. Animal Cognition, 1–5. doi:10.1007/s10071-012-0589-4

Johnson, S. P., Slater, A., & Hocking, I. (2011). Theoretical Issues in Child Development, 1–38. In A. M. Slater and J. G. Bremner (Eds.) An Introduction to Developmental Psychology. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.


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Last edited: 05/12/2017 03:57:00