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Assumptions are essentially beliefs that are held without checking the relevant facts. They are related to prejudices however, assumptions are usually applied to specific situations. Although they are often the premises on which arguments or reasoning processes are based, they can also be used as cognitive shortcuts in order to reach rapid conclusions. Although we deliberately make some assumptions as part of everyday life, we also make assumptions subconsciously without realizing it.

Making assumptions can be a double edged sword. It can allow us to process information efficiently and to make decisions quickly while being correct most of the time. However, assumptions can be detrimental to the creative process. This is because making an assumption implies believing that any contradicting condition is impossible. This can cause a person to eliminate many potentially good ideas without even examining them. For example, it is normal to assume that a sofa has to rest on the floor. However, it is quite possible for sofas to be suspended from the ceiling or cantilevered from a wall provided that there is a sufficiently strong support structure. Incidentally, one study showed that young children as a group were the best at divergent thinking while adults were the worst. A likely reason for this is that children have not had the time to develop many of the assumptions that adults take for granted.

Clearly, getting the most out of our creativity requires us to avoid making unnecessary assumptions. In fact, it is best to go no further than the assumptions required to define the task. Unfortunately, subconscious assumptions are more difficult to avoid because we often do not even realize when we are making them. However, becoming familiar with different perspectives is very useful for identifying these because they provide alternate points of view.