Insight Follows Incubation In The Compound Remote Associates Task


The phenomenon of insight is frequently characterized by the experience of a sudden and certain solution. Anecdotal accounts suggest insight frequently occurs after the problem solver has taken some time away from the problem (i.e., incubation). Here we used Compound Remote Associates problems to examine how incubation affects the subjective experience of insight at different levels of problem fixation. We hypothesized that incubation would elicit a mind-set change resulting in improved problem solving performance regardless of the initial level of fixation. Second, we predicted to the extent that insight reflects a person’s assessment of mind-set change, the experience of insight would be more likely after incubation. Results were consistent with these predictions. These findings suggest that the role of incubation in producing insight may have more to do with changing mind-set than forgetting information that fixates problem solvers.

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