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Two experiments tested a total of 509 participants on insight problems (the radiation problem and the nine-dot problem). Half of the participants were first exposed to a 1-min movie that included a subliminal hint. The hint raised the solution rate of people who did not recognize it. In addition, the way they solved the problem was affected by the hint. In Experiment 3, a novel technique was introduced to address some methodological concerns raised by Experiments 1 and 2. A total of 80 participants solved the 10-coin problem, and half of them were exposed to a subliminal hint. The hint facilitated solving the problem, and it shortened the solution time. Some implications of subliminal priming for research on and theorizing about insight problem solving are discussed.
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BRIEF REPORT
Effects of subliminal hints on insight problem solving
Masasi Hattori &Steven A. Sloman &Ryo Orita
Published online: 8 February 2013
#Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013
Abstract Two experiments tested a total of 509 participants
on insight problems (the radiation problem and the nine-dot
problem). Half of the participants were first exposed to a 1-
min movie that included a subliminal hint. The hint raised the
solution rate of people who did not recognize it. In addition,
the way they solved the problem was affected by the hint. In
Experiment 3, a novel technique was introduced to address
some methodological concerns raised by Experiments 1and 2.
A total of 80 participants solved the 10-coin problem, and half
of them were exposed to a subliminal hint. The hint facilitated
solving the problem, and it shortened the solution time. Some
implications of subliminal priming for research on and theo-
rizing about insight problem solving are discussed.
Keywords Subliminal priming .Implicit cognition .
Convergence problem .Nine-dot problem .Ten-coin problem
A striking aspect of insight problem solving occurs when
people reach an impasse despite having all the knowledge
required for a solution. To explain how people resolve
impasses, some theorists emphasize changes in heuristic
search of the problem space (e.g., Chronicle, MacGregor, &
Ormerod 2004;Kaplan&Simon,1990), while others empha-
size changes in the distribution of activation in memory (e.g.,
Ohlsson, 2011; Seifert, Meyer, Davidson, Patalano, & Yaniv,
1995). The former view puts the theoretical workload on
controlled, attention-demanding, and conscious processes,
the latter view on automatic, effortless, and unconscious pro-
cesses such as the spread of activation.
Gick and Holyoak (1980) long ago demonstrated the
importance of awareness in accessing relevant information.
They used Dunckers(1945)radiation problem,which
requires devising a method to destroy an inoperable tumor
in a patients stomach by a kind of ray without causing any
serious damage to surrounding healthy tissue. Presenting a
story that was structurally analogous to the solution (i.e., to
converge multiple low-intensity rays) did not enhance par-
ticipantssuccess unless it was explicitly presented as a hint.
Lockhart, Lamon, and Gick (1988) claimed that conceptual
processing of the prime triggers an awareness of the rele-
vance of the information and is required for transfer. On the
other hand, Maier (1931) observed that people can make use
of a hint incidentally given to them to solve the two-string
(pendulum) problem even if they were not aware of the hint.
Schunn and Dunbar (1996) also showed that people can
transfer their knowledge analogically to help solve even a
complex problem without awareness that they are doing so.
We examine the contribution of hints that are primed
subliminally to solving insight problems. Like Maiers
(1931), most problem-solving studies have been concerned
with transfer from analogical tasks, or supraliminal priming,
in which an individual is fully aware of the stimulus, al-
though he or she may not be aware that it is actually a hint.
This method, however, may be susceptible to both memory
failures (e.g., participants may merely have forgotten being
aware) and demand characteristics (Bowden, 1997).
Subliminal priming has neither disadvantage and, thus,
offers an ideal method for examining the role of awareness
in the resolution of impasses. To our knowledge, however,
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article
(doi:10.3758/s13423-013-0389-0) contains supplementary material,
which is available to authorized users.
M. Hattori (*)
Department of Psychology, Ritsumeikan University,
56-1 Toji-in Kitamachi, Kita-ku,
Kyoto 603-8577, Japan
e-mail: hat@lt.ritsumei.ac.jp
S. A. Sloman
Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences,
Brown University, Providence, RI, USA
R. Orita
Department of Psychology, Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan
Psychon Bull Rev (2013) 20:790797
DOI 10.3758/s13423-013-0389-0
this technique has not been applied to insight problem
solving, except by Nishimura and Suzuki (2006), who re-
port, without describing their methods in detail, subliminal
priming of the solution time for the T Puzzle.
1
Evidence does suggest that subliminal priming affects
peoples preferences (Kunst-Wilson & Zajonc, 1980), inter-
personal judgments (Bargh & Pietromonaco, 1982), brand
choice (Karremans, Stroebe, & Claus, 2006), motivation in
classrooms (Radel, Sarrazin, Legrain, & Gobancé, 2009),
and even higher-order goals (Légal, Chappé, Coiffard, &
Villard-Forest, 2012). There is, however, not yet agreement
on the definition of a perceptual threshold (Snodgrass,
Bernat, & Shevrin, 2004), and some researchers still dismiss
subliminal perception (see Holender, 1986). Most studies
define subliminal perception in terms of subjective report. In
this study, we use a more conservative method to test
awareness, forced choice recognition between the true prime
and similar distractors.
In Experiments 1and 2, the effect of subliminal priming on
insight problem solving was examined using a short movie
that included a hint that participants were not aware they had
seen. In Experiment 3, a new method was used to address
concerns about the methodology of Experiments 1and 2.
Experiment 1
In the first experiment, we examined whether subliminal
priming can affect human insight problem solving using
the radiation problem. Half of participants were given an
unrecognized hint during the attempt to solve the problem.
Method
Participants and design
A total of 206 undergraduate students (89 female and 117
male;age:1924 years, M= 20.1, SD =1.1)from
Ritsumeikan University and Ryukoku University were test-
ed. They were randomly assigned to either a hint or a no-
hint condition.
Materials and apparatus
The hint stimulus was presented as part of a 56-s movie,
composed from one hint image (exposed 33 ms × 60 times),
two mask images, three filler images, and one fixation image
(Fig. 1;see the online materials for more detail). The movie
was projected on a screen at the front of the room by a liquid
crystal display projector. The radiation problem was then
presented in a booklet along with diagrams (available online).
In the recognition task, participants were presented four fig-
ures (see Fig. 2), and their task was to choose the one that they
thought had been shown with a confidence rating—“sure,
half-sure,and guess.
Procedure
The experiment was administered in Japanese to groups in
two different classrooms. Two minutes after participants
started to solve the problem, they were asked to engage in
an irrelevanttask for 1 min. While participants in the hint
condition watched the hint movie (described as an irrele-
vant short movie) on the screen, participants in the no-hint
condition tackled the dummy calculation task (e.g., 23+18 = )
to try to solve as many problems as possible while not looking
at the screen. They were given a total of 9 min to complete the
problem, including the initial 2-min trial period, the 1-min
exposure or calculation period, and the second 6-min trial
period. Finally, they were asked whether they have seen the
radiation problem before and chose an answer among the
options yes,”“no,and I am not sure, but I might have seen
it before.
Results and discussion
Of the 206 participants, 10 reported that they had seen the
radiation problem before, 9 in the hint condition correctly
identified the hint image with certainty, and 2 in the no-hint
condition reported that they mistakenly had a glance at the
hint movie. Data from all these participants were excluded
from analysis. Of the remaining 185 participants, 56 %
(49/88) solved the problem in the hint condition, whereas
only 37 % (36/97) succeeded in the no-hint condition, χ
2
(1,
N= 185) = 6.41, p= .01, ϕ= .19.
In the recognition task, 55 % (48/88) selected the
correct hint image (2 out of 88 did not answer) signif-
icantly more than chance (i.e., 25 %), p<10
8
, but the
majority (69 % = 33/48) of them reported that it was a
guess,while the others reported half-sure.This
means either that some of participants saw the hint
with some degree of awareness or that they were
biased to select the hint image. We did verify in pilot
experiments that most people failed to recognize the
hint. But if they saw it, correct responders in the
recognition task should show a higher solution rate
than incorrect responders. They did not. Solution rates
for the two subgroups of the hint group were very close,
58 % (28/48) versus 55 % (21/38), χ
2
(1, N= 86) =
0.082, p=.78,ϕ= .03. This suggests that correct iden-
tifiers did not have the hint image available to awareness
1
Bowden (1997) revealed the effect of subliminal priming on ana-
grams. Anagrams, however, are not insight problems according to
Weisbergs(1995) taxonomy, because solving an anagram does not
require changes in the problem representation.
Psychon Bull Rev (2013) 20:790797 791
but, instead, were biased to choose it for some other
reason. Perhaps it simply looked more plausible than
the other images.
2
In the next experiment, designed to
examine the facilitation effect in a different problem,
we examine this issue directly.
Experiment 2
In Experiment 1, an unrecognized hint raised the solution
rate of the radiation problem by 50 %, suggesting that
subliminal priming helped to solve an insight problem. In
this experiment, we tried to replicate the results using a
different problem that was less text based and more purely
spatial, the nine-dot problem.
Method
Participants and design
A total of 133 undergraduate students from Brown
University participated in the experiment. They were
randomly assigned to either a hint or a no-hint condition. Of
these, 4 did not follow the instructions correctly, and their data
were excluded. The remaining 129 participants consisted of
59 female, 65 male, and 5 unknown (age range: 1753 years,
M=20.1,SD =3.2).
Materials and apparatus
A hint movie for the nine-dot problem and an answer booklet
were used as in Experiment 1(Fig. 1;see the online materials
for details). The nine-dot problem was followed by a recog-
nition inquiry (only for the hint condition), where participants
were asked whether they saw the hint and they chose an
answer from yes,”“no,and I thought I saw something,
but I didnt recognize it clearly.In the recognition task, they
were given a forced choice among four figuresthe true hint
image and the identical image rotated by 90°, 180°, and 270°.
Procedure
The experiment was administered to two groups in different
classrooms, and the procedure was similar to Experiment 1.
One minute after the experiment started, participants were
shown the hint movie or given the dummy calculation task.
They were given a total of 5 min to solve the problem.
Results
Of the 129 participants, 55 reported that they had seen the nine-
dot problem before, and 3 finished the task successfully within
1 min (i.e., before the exposure period). All their data were
excluded from further analysis, unless otherwise stated. Of the
remaining 71 participants, 2 out of the 28 participants tested in
the hint condition reported having recognized the hint, but they
all failed to correctly identify the true hint image. Solution rates
in the hint and no-hint conditions were 29 % (8/28) and 9 %
(4/43), respectively, p=.05(Fishers exact test), ϕ=.25(see
Fig. 3). This result can be compared with an effect of a similar
2
Unfortunately, we did not collect data on the recognition task from
the no-hint group. Such data would have revealed whether there are
biases in favor of one of the response options.
I.
II.
Fixation
1001 ms
Fixation
1001 ms
20 Cycles
18 sec × 3 rep
133 ms 767 ms Hint
33 ms Mask
133 ms Filler
671101 ms
701 ms 200 ms Hint
33 ms Mask
200734 ms Filler
267767 ms
20 Cycles
Fig. 1 Schematic description
of a sequence of frames
including implicit hint stimulus
presented in Experiments 1 (I)
and 2 (II). These sequences
(18 s long each) are looped
three times with a 1-s blank
between each loop and formed
a total of a 56-s long movie that
included 60 hint cuts
792 Psychon Bull Rev (2013) 20:790797
supraliminal hint reported by Chronicle, Ormerod, and
MacGregor (2001), who used a shading pattern overlaid on
the array of nine dots as a hint without mentioning its relevance.
Their solution rate was 16 % (5/31), a similar effect size, ϕ=
.29.
3
If the hint facilitates solving the problem, solutions should be
similar to the one suggested by the hint. Figure 3also shows the
proportion of solutions that had the same structure as the hint, as
opposed to one of the other three solutions (see Fig. 4). Of the
successful solvers in the hint condition, 88 % (7/8) matched the
hint, whereas only 25 % (1/4) of successful solvers did so in the
no-hint condition, exactly what would be expected by chance.
The difference between the two conditions was marginally
significant, p=.07(Fishers exact test), although the effect size
was large ϕ= .63.
Results regarding participantsawareness were dissociated
from the effect of the hint. Only 5 out of 57 participants
(including the 27 who knew the problem and the 2 who finished
within 1 min) in the hint condition reported that they had
recognized the hint, but 3 of the 5 failed to correctly identify
the target in the recognition task. The distribution of their
choices in the recognition task also indicated that they did not
explicitly recognize the hint. The frequency of choosing each
solution (Fig. 4) was 17, 13, 14, and 9, respectively (4 chose
nothing), no different than a uniform distribution, χ
2
(3, N=53)
=2.47,p= .48. Recognition confidence also failed to predict
the ability to solve the problem. The proportions correct were
40 % (2/5), 22 % (2/9), and 30 % (13/43) for participants who
reported yes,”“unsure,and noto the recognition inquiry,
respectively, p=.79(Fishers exact test), CramersV=.09(a
very small effect size).
Discussion
The hint tripled the solution rate. Together with the results of
Experiment 1, the results in the hint condition (i.e., a high
solution rate, a high likelihood of solving the problem in a
way consistent with the hint, and a low recognition rate) suggest
an effect of subliminal stimulation. The method of Experiments
1and 2may raise some concerns, however. First, the effects
might be caused by the mask or filler image instead of the hint.
Second, insight might have been hampered by the calculation
task in the control conditions. These interpretations actually are
not consistent with the finding that solutions matched the hint in
the hint condition. Additionally, the latter interpretation is ren-
dered suspect by the higher solution rates in the no-hint condi-
tions (i.e., 37 % and 9 %), as compared with the typical solution
rates in the literature (9 % and 4 %, respectively).
4
However, we
do not have direct evidence that the explicit images and the
calculation task were irrelevant to the facilitation effect. Third,
it might be regarded as a problem that all the participants did not
receive exactly the same hint stimulus. That is, because the
experiment was administered to participants as a group, the
distance and angle to the hint varied with their seating positions.
All of these concerns were addressed in the next experiment.
Experiment 3
In this experiment, the subliminal priming effect was examined
by a more strictly controlled method than in the previous experi-
ments. In order to generalize the results, we used a different
insight problem than for previous experiments, the 10-coin
problem. The problem is to turn a triangle composed of 10
coins upside down by moving no more than 3 coins (see Fig. 5).
Method
Participants and design
A total of 80 adults (39 female and 41 male; age: 1825 years
including 1 unknown, M=21.2,SD = 1.6) were tested. They
were randomly assigned to either a hint or a no-hint condition.
5
3
Since they actually did not include a control condition, we used a
solution rate of the control group, 0% (0/27), reported in MacGregor,
Ormerod, and Chronicle (2001).
4
The radiation problem is based on data from a total of 250 partic-
ipants from 10 control conditions reported in Gick and Holyoak
(1980), Spencer and Weisberg (1986), Holyoak and Koh (1987), and
Thomas and Lleras (2007,2009). The nine-dot problem is based on
data from a total of 284 participants from seven control groups (or
eliminated data) reported in Burnham and Davis (1969), Weisberg and
Alba (1981), MacGregor et al. (2001), and Kershaw and Ohlsson
(2004).
5
Participants actually were assigned to one of four conditions: 2 (hint
vs. no hint) × 2 (instruction vs. no instruction). In the instruction
conditions, they were encouraged to generate novel ideas. A directive
like Think unconventionallywas displayed on the center of the
screen for 1 s immediately after each prime (Fig. 5). No message was
displayed in the no-instruction condition. There was no main effect of
the instruction, χ
2
(1) = 0.15, p= .71, nor an interaction with the hint,
χ
2
(1) = 0.15, p= .71, by a two-way ANOVA based on a chi-square
distribution. We therefore refrain from further discussion of this
variable.
Fig. 2 Four alternatives
prepared for the recognition
task in Experiment 1.
Participants forcedly chose one
that they thought had been
shown
Psychon Bull Rev (2013) 20:790797 793
Materials and apparatus
Participants solved the 10-coin problem on a 10.1-in. tablet
computer (NEC PC-LT550FS) using a touch pen. All the
operations, including receiving the hint and answering post-
questions, were carried out on the device.
Procedure
The experiment was administered in Japanese individual-
ly. Participants were able to move any coins on the
screen or to return to the initial state whenever they
desired. In the hint condition, the hint was periodically
displayed on the screen as the problem was solved
(Fig. 5). In the no-hint condition, the hint was replaced
by a blank screen. Before they started, participants read
general instructions on the screen. They were notified in
advance that they would see irregular polygons (i.e., a
pattern mask) every 10 s and were falsely instructed that
the experiment aimed to examine the effect of irrele-
vantvisual stimuli during problem solving. The task
ended when they successfully solved the problem. After
they solved the problem or 4 min had passed, they were
given several questions identical to those in Experiment 2
(see the online materials).
Results and discussion
Of the 80 participants, 3 reported that they had seen the 10-
coin problem before, and 1 in the hint condition reported
having recognized the hint. All their data were excluded
from further analysis.
The solution rate was 26 % (10/38) in the hint condition,
but only 5 % (2/38) in the no-hint condition, χ
2
(1, N= 76) =
6.33, p= .012, ϕ= .29. Figure 6shows the cumulative
distribution of successful solvers as time elapsed in each
group. A log-rank test for equality of rise curves (i.e.,
survivor functions) showed a significant difference of solu-
tion times between the two groups, χ
2
(1, N= 76) = 6.3,
p=.01,ϕ= .29. In the recognition task (25 % chance level),
only 26 % (10/38) selected the correct answer, p=.85
(binomial test).
In sum, the effect of Experiments 1and 2was replicated.
The hint quintupled the solution rate and shortened the
solution time. The results suggest that the main cause of
facilitation in the previous experiments was not explicit
images given as masks or inexperience with the calculation
task but the hint itself.
General discussion
In three experiments, we observed facilitation from sub-
liminal priming on insight problem solving. Hints in-
creased solution rates in all three experiments, despite
participants being both subjectively unaware of primes
and also unable to confidently discriminate the target
from distractors.
The results shed light on how impasses are resolved. The
subliminal priming effect is more consistent with theories
based on activation in memory, including the redistribution
theory of insight (Ohlsson, 2011), than with those based on
awareness. Exposure to a hint can activate insightful ideas
without awareness, increasing the probability of producing a
corresponding strategy and of deactivating inappropriate
ones to escape from the impasse.
One condition likely critical to the effect of subliminal
priming is preparedness. Moss, Kotovsky, and Cagan
(2007) obtained evidence that open goals set in a task (i.e.,
Fig. 4 Four solutions of the
nine-dot problem. Only
solution 1 matches to the
implicit hint
7.0
3.6
2.3
25.0
tniHtnih-oN
0
10
20
30
Solution Rate (%)
Condition
Same Solution
Different Solution
Fig. 3 Percentage of participants who solved the nine-dot problem in
Experiment 2
794 Psychon Bull Rev (2013) 20:790797
unsolved problems) promoted acquisition of hints implicitly
presented in another task. The opportunistic assimilation
hypothesis (Seifert et al., 1995) supposes that reaching im-
passe sets up failure indicesin memory and relevant
information later introduced in the environment may lead
to retrieval of these indices, which may result in an insight.
So the procedure we used in Experiments 1and 2(i.e.,
presenting the hint a few minutes after participants started
tackling the problem) might have made participants recep-
tive to priming. Waiting a few minutes allowed them to set
their goals. Indeed, the effectiveness of incubation periods
in creative thinking could involve such goal setting.
Psychologists have argued about whether insights are
initially unconscious or not. Some theorists have claimed
that insights are not always conscious from the start
(Siegler, 2000, p. 82) or that first, unconscious thought
booststhe associative search for creative solutionsand
then solutions are transferred to consciousness(Zhong,
Dijksterhuis, & Galinsky, 2008, p. 916). Such claims are
consistent with our present data, but such processes may
require enabling conditions and the absence of disablers.
Conscious verbal processes can interfere with unconscious
processes in insight problem solving (Schooler, Ohlsson, &
Brooks, 1993). Moreover, although conscious control alone
is known to facilitate creativity (e.g., Nickerson, 1999),
intentional activities can hamper unconscious processes.
Mindful students in a classroom were insensitive to sublim-
inal priming (Radel et al., 2009), and similarly, conscious
attention eliminated priming effects on social perception
(Dijksterhuis & Van Knippenberg, 2000). How priming
Time (se c)
Proportion of Participants Successful
Data
Exponential Model
0 60 120 180 240
0
0.1
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.5
Hint
No-hint
Fig. 6 Proportion of participants who successfully solved the 10-coin
problem, with time in each condition
10.4 sec
Instruction
1015±5 msec
20.8 sec0 sec 240 sec
General
Instruction
240±13 ms
Move only three coins and turn the
triangle point downwards
Think unconventionally
Prime
1057±19 msec
Hint
33±7 ms 240±13 ms Hint
33±7 ms 240±13 ms Hint
33±7 ms 240±13 ms
Correct SolutionHint Ima
g
e
Fig. 5 Schematic depiction of
the temporal task structure in
Experiment 3. Actual duration
time of each image was
measured by counting the
number of frames (600 fps)
captured by a high-speed
camera (Casio EX-F1). The
means and standard deviations
of values obtained by 10
measurements are shown (M±
SD). In the no-hint condition,
each hint image was replaced
by a blank screen (23±6 ms
each)
Psychon Bull Rev (2013) 20:790797 795
effects or unconscious processes interact with more inten-
tional and controlled activities is an important open issue.
Unconscious processing in insight problem solving cannot
be studied by methods like verbal self-report that require
conscious processing. Thus, we must rely on experimental
methods that tap implicit processes, like the subliminal
priming technique.
Acknowledgements We thank Phil Fernbach, and Hiroaki Suzuki
for their helpful comments on this study. We are also grateful to Yuriko
Shibata for her help in developing experimental materials in a pilot
study.
This research was supported by Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Re-
search 22500247 from Japan Society for the Promotion of Science
and a research grant from the NeuroCreative Lab (NPO) to M.H.
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Supplementary resource (1)

... In our study, only half of the insight problem solving tasks were primed; the findings support Howe et al.'s (2010) conclusions that priming can occur with information that has not been physically presented but has been internally generated incidentally and automatically outside of conscious awareness, and such priming effects can facilitate solution-processing rates in insight problem solving tasks. In addition, our findings support subliminally presented priming stimuli significantly enhance subsequent performance on insight problems (e.g., Hattori et al., 2013;Suzuki & Fukuda, 2013). ...
... Such findings suggest insight problem solving can be trained and when priming is offered, practice can improve performance over time. Moreover, the findings support priming can trigger unaware insightful thoughts and appropriate strategy use during insight problem solving (Hattori et al., 2013). Among the six personality traits (EC and the Big Five personality traits) proposed, EC and extraversion had the strongest interaction effects with priming during insight problem solving, followed by conscientiousness and openness to experience. ...
... That is, did the false anagram solution appear to participants spontaneously (implicit route), or did they analytically infer that anagram solutions are sometimes associated with words from the list and thereby find a matching solution (explicit route). We favor the implicit route because previous research strongly indicates that 'Aha' moments tend to follow implicit processing (Amabile et al., 1986;Bowden, 1997;Grant & Spivey, 2003;Hattori et al., 2013;Laukkonen et al., 2020;Laukkonen et al., 2021;Maier, 1931;Salvi et al., 2015;Salvi & Bowden, 2020;Schunn & Dunbar, 1996;Sio & Ormerod, 2009). Since false anagram solutions had to be accompanied by 'Aha' experiences to be considered a 'false insight,' these false insights presumably occurred to the participant following implicit processing. ...
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The insight experience (or ‘Aha moment’) generally evokes strong feelings of certainty and confidence. An ‘Aha’ experience for a false idea could underlie many false beliefs and delusions. However, for as long as insight experiences have been studied, false insights have remained difficult to elicit experimentally. That difficulty, in turn, highlights the fact that we know little about what causes people to experience a false insight. Across two experiments (total N = 300), we developed and tested a new paradigm to elicit false insights. In Experiment 1 we used a combination of semantic priming and visual similarity to elicit feelings of insight for incorrect solutions to anagrams. These false insights were relatively common but were experienced as weaker than correct ones. In Experiment 2 we replicated the findings of Experiment 1 and found that semantic priming and visual similarity interacted to produce false insights. These studies highlight the importance of misleading semantic processing and the feasibility of the solution in the generation of false insights.
... Even under these more strenuous working memory load manipulations, the pattern of the results remained similar. The results of this exploratory analysis are presented in Appendix E. Grant & Spivey, 2003;Hattori, Sloman, & Orita, 2013; also see Cristofori, Salvi, Jung-Beeman, & Grafman, 2018, for a subliminal reward priming study). Neuro-imaging and psychophysiological studies have likewise corroborated the unconscious nature of insight. ...
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The Aha! moment-the sudden insight sometimes reached when solving a vexing problem-entails a different problem-solving experience than solution retrieval reached by an analytical, multistep strategy (i.e., non-insight). To date, the (un)conscious nature of insight remains debated. We addressed this by studying insight under cognitive load. If insight and non-insight problem solving rely on conscious, effortful processes, they should both be influenced by a concurrent cognitive load. However, if unconscious processes characterize insight, cognitive load might not affect it at all. Using a dual-task paradigm, young, healthy adults (N = 106) solved 70 word puzzles under different cognitive loads. We confirmed that insight solutions were more often correct and received higher solution confidence. Importantly, as cognitive load increased, non-insight solutions became less frequent and required more solution time, whereas insightful ones remained mostly unaffected. This implies that insight problem solving did not compete for limited cognitive resources.
... Under this view, the aha experience convinces the agent that the new perspective is true. Because the processes that precede aha moments can be pre-reflective or implicit (Bowden, 1997;Grant & Spivey, 2003;Hattori et al., 2013;Laukkonen & Tangen, 2017;Maier, 1931;Salvi et al., 2015;Salvi & Bowden, 2020;Schunn & Dunbar, 1996;Sio & Ormerod, 2009), aha moments might provide information that is not otherwise accessible. Thus, the aha moment could plausibly provide information about whether an idea can be trusted in the absence of access to the processes that produced it, much like hunger or fear can signal something important about the state of one's inner or outer world (Damasio, 1996;Schwarz, 2012). ...
Preprint
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Our basic beliefs about reality can be impossible to prove and yet we can feel a strong intuitive conviction for them, as exemplified by insights that imbue an idea with immediate certainty. Here we presented participants with worldviews such as “people’s core qualities are fixed”, and simultaneously elicited an aha moment. In the first experiment (N = 3,000), which included a direct replication, participants rated worldview beliefs as truer when they solved anagrams and experienced aha moments. A second experiment (N = 1,005) showed that the worldview statement and the aha moment must be perceived simultaneously for the insight misattribution effect to occur. These results demonstrate that artificially induced aha moments can make worldviews seem truer, possibly because humans rely on feelings of insight to appraise an idea’s veracity. Feelings of insight are therefore not epiphenomenal and should be investigated for their effects on decisions, beliefs, and delusions.
... Under this view, the aha experience convinces the agent that the new perspective is true. Because the processes that precede aha moments can be pre-reflective or implicit (Bowden, 1997;Grant & Spivey, 2003;Hattori et al., 2013;Laukkonen & Tangen, 2017;Maier, 1931;Salvi et al., 2015;Salvi & Bowden, 2020;Schunn & Dunbar, 1996;Sio & Ormerod, 2009), aha moments might provide information that is not otherwise accessible. Thus, the aha moment could plausibly provide information about whether an idea can be trusted in the absence of access to the processes that produced it, much like hunger or fear can signal something important about the state of one's inner or outer world (Damasio, 1996;Schwarz, 2012). ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Our basic beliefs about reality can be impossible to prove and yet we can feel a strong intuitive conviction for them, as exemplified by insights that imbue an idea with immediate certainty. Here we presented participants with worldviews such as “people’s core qualities are fixed”, and simultaneously elicited an aha moment. In the first experiment (N = 3,000), which included a direct replication, participants rated worldview beliefs as truer when they solved anagrams and experienced aha moments. A second experiment (N = 1,005) showed that the worldview statement and the aha moment must be perceived simultaneously for the insight misattribution effect to occur. These results demonstrate that artificially induced aha moments can make worldviews seem truer, possibly because humans rely on feelings of insight to appraise an idea’s veracity. Feelings of insight are therefore not epiphenomenal and should be investigated for their effects on decisions, beliefs, and delusions.
... Under this view, the aha experience convinces the agent that the new perspective is true. Because the processes that precede aha moments can be pre-re ective or implicit (Bowden, 1997;Grant & Spivey, 2003;Hattori et al., 2013;Laukkonen & Tangen, 2017;Laukkonen et al., 2021;Maier, 1931;Salvi et al., 2015;Salvi & Bowden, 2020;Schunn & Dunbar, 1996;Sio & Ormerod, 2009), aha moments might provide information that is not otherwise accessible. Thus, the aha moment could plausibly provide information about whether an idea can be trusted in the absence of access to the processes that produced it, much like hunger or fear can signal something important about the state of one's inner or outer world (Damasio, 1996;Schwarz, 2012). ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Our basic beliefs about reality can be impossible to prove and yet we can feel a strong intuitive conviction for them, as exemplified by insights that imbue an idea with immediate certainty. Here we presented participants with worldviews such as “people’s core qualities are fixed”, and simultaneously elicited an aha moment. In the first experiment (N = 3000), which included a direct replication, participants rated worldview beliefs as truer when they solved anagrams and experienced aha moments. A second experiment (N = 1,005) showed that the worldview statement and the aha moment must be perceived simultaneously for the insight misattribution effect to occur. These results demonstrate that artificially induced aha moments can make worldviews seem truer, possibly because humans rely on feelings of insight to appraise an idea’s veracity. Feelings of insight are therefore not epiphenomenal and should be investigated for their effects on decisions, beliefs, and delusions.
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Our basic beliefs about reality can be impossible to prove and yet we can feel a strong intuitive conviction about them, as exemplified by insights that imbue an idea with immediate certainty. Here we presented participants with worldview beliefs such as “people’s core qualities are fixed” and simultaneously elicited an aha moment. In the first experiment (N = 3000, which included a direct replication), participants rated worldview beliefs as truer when they solved anagrams and also experienced aha moments. A second experiment (N = 1564) showed that the worldview statement and the aha moment must be perceived simultaneously for this ‘insight misattribution’ effect to occur. These results demonstrate that artificially induced aha moments can make worldview beliefs seem truer, possibly because humans partially rely on feelings of insight to appraise an idea’s veracity. Feelings of insight are therefore not epiphenomenal and should be investigated for their effects on decisions, beliefs, and delusions.
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