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Intuition in insight and nonsight problem solving

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People’s metacognitions, both before and during problem solving, may be of importance in motivating and guiding problem-solving behavior. These metacognitions could also be diagnostic for distinguishing among different classes of problems, each perhaps controlled by different cognitive processes. In the present experiments, intuitions on classic insight problems were compared with those on noninsight and algebra problems. The findings were as follows: (1) subjective feeling of knowing predicted performance on algebra problems but not on insight problems; (2) subjects’ expectations of performance greatly exceeded their actual performance, especially on insight problems; (3) normative predictions provided a better estimate of individual performance than did subjects’ own predictions, especially on the insight problems; and, most importantly, (4) the patterns-of-warmth ratings, which reflect subjects’ feelings of approaching solution, differed for insight and noninsight problems. Algebra problems and noninsight problems showed a more incremental pattern over the course of solving than did insight problems. In general, then, the data indicated that noninsight problems were open to accurate predictions of performance, whereas insight problems were opaque to such predictions. Also, the phenomenology of insight-problem solution was characterized by a sudden, unforeseen flash of illumination. We propose that the difference in phenomenology accompanying insight and noninsight problem solving, as empirically demonstrated here, be used to define insight.
... The first refers to the set of processes involved in the processing, representation and resolution of the problem; the second, to the monitoring and control of cognitive processes; while the last one, to the emotional disposition of who solves the aforementioned problem. This model agrees with literature that suggests that the relationship between metacognition and SP occurs especially on complex problems that require a wide deployment of cognitive resources (i.e., non-insight problems), and not so on insight problems, in which the solution emerges spontaneously in consciousness (Metcalfe and Wiebe, 1987). In this way, metacognition would play an active and continuous role in the conscious administration of the cognitive resources used during the resolution of a problem (Stuyck et al., 2022). ...
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Metacognitive ability has been described as an important predictor of several processes involved in learning, including problem-solving. Although this relationship is fairly documented, little is known about the mechanisms that could modulate it. We decided to evaluate the impact of self-knowledge on problem-solving and, in addition, we inspected whether emotional (self-reported anxiety) and interpersonal (attitudes towards social interdependence) variables could affect the relationship between metacognition and problem-solving. We tested a sample of 32 undergraduate students and used behavioural tasks and self-report questionnaires. Contrary to the literature, we found no significant relationship between metacognition and problem-solving performance, nor a significant moderating effect when including emotional and interpersonal variables in the model. In contrast, we observed a significant moderating model combining metacognition, self-reported anxiety and attitudes towards social interdependence. It was found that participants with high metacognition reported attitudes unfavourable towards interdependence when they felt high anxiety. These results suggest that already anxious individuals with high metacognition would prefer to work alone rather than with others, as a coping mechanism against further anxiety derived from cooperation. We hypothesise that in anxiogenic contexts, metacognition is used as a tool to compare possible threats with one's own skills and act accordingly, in order to maximise one's own performance. Further studies are needed to understand how metacognition works in contexts adverse to learning.
... In such context, a link between insight and unconscious processing has been established (Bowden et al., 2005;Salvi et al., 2015). A second widely accepted trait of insight is a feeling of certainty in solvers (Burton, 1999;Fischbein, 1987;Liljedahl, 2005;Metcalfe & Wiebe, 1987); indeed, despite the debate on whether insight forcefully leads to a right answer (Laukkonena et al., 2020), it is certain that whether correct or incorrect, insight is always followed by a pronounced feeling of certainty (Danek & Wiley, 2017;Palma & Cosmelli, 2008). A third trait of insight is the fluency of resolution it brings, dissolving strain and leading to fluent solutions (Topolinski & Reber, 2010). ...
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The present study aims to describe and characterize the insights of elementary school students during the collaborative solving of mathematics problems. A total of 10 elementary school 60-min math classes were analyzed, with each session documented by videotaping the interaction of groups of 3 to 6 children. The study included 41 students in total (14 boys and 27 girls aged from 7 to 10). Group interaction was analyzed by taking spontaneous insights as queues. The results distinguish full insight—where students suddenly discover the answer to the problem—from partial insight—where students realize they have been following an incorrect procedure. Data shows that most insight takes place during interaction and not individually. An in-depth description of such insights shows a junction between the semantic content in verbal explanations and proto-symbolic content involved in gestures. The described insights also show in situ emergence of joint rhythmicity among participants. Results suggest that it is possible to clearly identify insight in spontaneous interaction among school children.
... Studies of insight properties usually focus on two dimensions: cognitive process and individual characteristics (Ash and Wiley, 2006;Ovington et al., 2016;Ogawa et al., 2018). Previous studies, treating insight as a problem's solution process, used specialized tasks to induce insight and reveal the cognitive mechanisms under insightful solutions (Metcalfe and Wiebe, 1987;Knoblich et al., 1999;Kounios and Beeman, 2009). Overall, these studies measured episodic (state) insight. ...
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Studies on the neural correlates of episodic insight have made significant progress in the past decades. However, the neural mechanisms underlying dispositional insight are largely unknown. In the present study, we recruited forty-four young, healthy adults and performed several analyses to reveal the neural mechanisms of dispositional insight. Firstly, a voxel-based morphometry (VBM) technique was used to explore the structural brain mechanisms of dispositional insight. We found that dispositional insight was significantly and negatively correlated with the regional gray matter volume (rGMV) in the left thalamus (TLM.L), right temporoparietal junction (TPJ.R), and left dorsal medial prefrontal cortex (DMPFC.L). Secondly, we performed a seed-based resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) analysis to complement the findings of VBM analysis further. The brain regions of TLM.L, DMPFC.L, and TPJ.R were selected as seed regions. We found that dispositional insight was associated with altered RSFC between the DMPFC.L and bilateral TPJ, between the TPJ.R and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, DMPFC.L, TPJ.L, right insula, and right cerebellum. Finally, a mediation analysis found that the personality of neuroticism partially mediated the relationship between the brain region of TLM.L and dispositional insight. These findings imply that dispositional insight has a specific functional and structural neural mechanism. The personality of neuroticism may play a pivotal role in the processes of dispositional insight.
... There remain some intelligent behaviors that systematic probing may still struggle to help measure or explain as the process of understanding unfolds. Consider the sudden ability to solve an insight problem (Metcalfe, 1986;Metcalfe and Wiebe, 1987). People are generally unable to articulate how they are trying to reason through or solve a problem prior to insight. ...
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