Insight and the Genesis of New Ideas

AbstractResearch on insight problem solving focuses on the genesis of new ideas and aims to identify underpinning processes that turn an initially unproductive problem representation into one within which the solution offers itself in the agent’s mental look-ahead horizon. To address this aim, researchers typically create laboratory-based tasks designed to encourage an incorrect representation of an ostensibly simple problem or riddle such as “how do you throw a ping pong ball in such a way that it travels a certain distance, comes to a dead stop and then reverses direction” (Ansburg & Dominowski, 1980). Such riddles are created to encourage an incorrect interpretation and engender an impasse. Researchers can then observe how this impasse is overcome by: (i) examining the phenomenology of insight; (ii) analysing strategic processing (e.g., via protocol analysis); and (iii) exploring brain areas that are active when insight arises (e.g., using neuroimaging).

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