Attribute Listing/Morphological Synthesis

Attribute Listing and Morphological Synthesis: Consider the Parts

(Crawford, 1954)

Another strategy used to help find new perspectives is attribute listing. In attribute listing, the task is broken down into its component parts and each attribute is examined separately. In this case, the task is to invent a new candy bar. If each attribute of the candy bar is considered independently, the options can be combined in many varied ways. The process ensures that each aspect of possible change is considered separately. Without using attribute listing, you might not invent an elephant-shaped chocolate filled with peanut butter, tied to an elephant comic mascot!

Shape Coating Basic Filling Additions Size Package Tie-In





milk chocolatewhite chocolatepeanut cremefruit coatingcoconut


cookie crumbs

pretzel crumbs

peanut butterchocolatevanillamintcashew butter

white chocolate



other fruit

nutscaramelcookie piecescoconutraisins







regulardoubleminivariedfamily singlesbuddy-packfamily-packclear packagetoys inside

package is a toy

musicalpersonalsportssports figurecartoons


TV show

news hero

story figure


Sample Lesson 6.7 Attribute Listing in Biology or Chemistry (Starko, 2010)

Have students list the attributes of a particular animal and its habitat. Choose one attribute of the habitat and list all the ways it might change. For each, describe the impact on the animal studied, both short and long term. In a study of evolutionary biology, this could include predictions about the future of the species.

You could undertake the same activity with a particular molecule. What are its attributes? What could happen if one of them changed?

  Desert Forest Wetland Ocean Field


Important Body Features
Care of Young

Morphological Synthesis: Mix and Match

Morphological synthesis is related to attribute listing. In it, two attributes are placed on the X and Y axes to examine possible combination. For example, an author might put possible settings on one axis and issues/problems on the other to come up with story ideas. An inventor trying to improve a flashlight might put types of housing down one axis and bulb options on the other. Any time the basic analysis consists of two dimensions, mophological synthesis (sometimes called morphological analysis) is a possibility. I once had a graduate student from another country who lived with a group of international students. They loved Bisquick as a low-cost flexible food option. She made a grid using “Ways to cook Bisquick” (bake, fry, boil, steam etc) on one axis and “Things that could be added to Bisquick” (green onions, chocolate chips, raisins, etc.) on the other. Her household was delighted with the new dishes that resulted!

Crawford, R. P. (1954). The techniques of creative thinking. New York: Hawthorn Books.

5 thoughts on “Attribute Listing/Morphological Synthesis

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