An Aha! Walks into a Bar: Joke Completion as a Form of Insight Problem Solving

AbstractThe present work introduces a new insight problem task: joke completion. We found that performance and magnitude of insight within it correlated with an established task: rebus puzzles. However, participants performed worse on and took longer in joke completion problems than in their rebus counterparts. Further, the distribution of reported insight was bimodal only for rebuses, as should be expected of an insight problem. In joke completion problems, both self-estimated and externally-rated joke funniness correlated with reported insight. Challenging the assumption of impasse, performance and insight decreased as a function of trial time for both problem types, with the best and most insightful solutions submitted within the first 20 seconds. While this is a preliminary study, we argue that it signals a promising direction for the problem solving, humor, and creativity literatures by providing a new approach to capture insight in a manner conducive to linguistic and cognitive modeling techniques.

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