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The Experience of Insight Follows Incubation in the Compound Remote Associates Task


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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). However, the mechanism by which incubation may facilitate insight problem solving is unclear. Here we used compound remote associates problems to explore the likely mechanisms by which incubation may facilitate problem solving. First, we manipulated problem fixation to explore whether forgetting can explain incubation effects. Second, leveraging previous work linking the experience of insight to subconscious semantic integration, we asked participants to report their experience of insight after each problem solution, including problems solved after a period of distracted incubation. We hypothesized that incubation was not principally important for forgetting but rather frequently causes a shift to a more subconscious semantic integration strategy. Consistent with this we found that initial problem fixation did not predict the improvement in problem solving after incubation and that participants were more likely to report insight on problems solved after incubation. We suggest that incubation may facilitate insight problem solving by facilitating a mind-set shift to a more subconscious problem solving strategy involving semantic integration.
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The Experience of 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 that insight frequently occurs after the
problem solver has taken some time away from the problem (i.e., incubation). However,
the mechanism by which incubation may facilitate insight problem-solving remains
unclear. Here, we used compound remote associates problems to explore the likely mech-
anisms by which incubation may facilitate problem-solving. First, we manipulated prob-
lem fixation to explore whether forgetting can explain incubation effects. Second,
leveraging previous work linking the experience of insight to unconscious semantic inte-
gration, we asked participants to report their experience of insight after each problem
solution, including problems solved after a period of distracted incubation. We hypothe-
sized that incubation was not principally important for forgetting but rather frequently
causes a shift to a more unconscious semantic integration strategy. Consistent with this
we found that initial problem fixation did not predict the improvement in problem-solving
after incubation and that participants were more likely to report insight on problems
solved after incubation. Our findings suggest that incubation may facilitate insight
problem-solving leading to a mind-set shift to a more unconscious problem-solving
strategy involving semantic integration.
Keywords: fixation, incubation, insight, problem-solving.
People frequently describe solving problems with either an analytic, step-by-step pro-
cess (Morrison, 2014), or a comparatively unconscious process resulting in unexpected
answers (van Steenburgh, Fleck, Beeman, & Kounios, 2012). In the latter situation people
show little ability to predict their sudden insight (Metcalfe, 1986), yet have great confi-
dence in the solution that seemingly came from unconscious processing (Simonton,
2012; Smith & Ward, 2012). This experience often follows time away from the problem,
frequently referred to as incubation. However, relatively little is known about the mecha-
nisms by which incubation may facilitate insight problem-solving.
Beginning with the Gestalt psychologists, researchers attempted to create problems
where the experience of insight was more likely [e.g., Duncker and Lees (1945) Candle
Problem; Katona’s (1940) Matchstick Arithmetic Problems; Mednick’s (1962) Remote
Associates Problems]. To delineate the different ways that participants might solve these
types of problems, researchers have asked participants to monitor their problem-solving
1The Journal of Creative Behavior, Vol. 0, Iss. 0, pp. 1–10 ©2015 by the Creative Education Foundation, Inc. ÓDOI: 10.1002/jocb.96
Morrison, R.G., McCarthy, S., & Molony, J., (2015). The
experience of insight follows incubation in the compound
remote associates task. Journal of Creative Behavior. Doi:
progress in situ (e.g., Metcalfe, 1986) or alternately to report whether they experienced
insight prior to problem solution (e.g., Bowden & Jung-Beeman, 2003a). This latter
approach allows researchers to better identify problems likely solved with insight and
compare them to problems solved with other problem-solving strategies. Alternatively,
some studies have examined how problem-solving context could facilitate insight solu-
tions (e.g., Baird et al., 2012; Kounios et al., 2008; Smith & Blankenship, 1991; Storm
& Angello, 2010; Storm, Angello, & Bjork, 2011; Wallas, 1926). For instance, Smith
and Blankenship (1991) argued that incubation allows problem solvers to forget (or
perhaps inhibit) mental representations causing problem fixation and thereby achieve
an insight solution. In this study, we bring together these approaches to investigate
possible mechanisms for how a period of distracted incubation may facilitate insight
Building on an earlier study by Smith and Blankenship (1991), Kohn and Smith
(2009) asked participants to solve remote associates problems in which participants
must discover a single word that is a remote associate of three different words. Prior
to attempting to solve each problem participants completed an initial task designed
to manipulate the level of fixation experienced while trying to solve the remote asso-
ciates problems. Participants briefly tried to solve each remote associates problem and
then were given either a second continuous solution period or a brief 30-second
incubation period during which they performed a working-memory distractor
task. Kohn and Smith found a trend toward participants showing improved perfor-
mance after incubation for problems on which they were initially more fixated. They
suggested that the period of distracted incubation might have assisted by allowing
participants to forget their initial mental representations responsible for problem
Dijksterhuis and Meurs (2006) conducted a series of experiments looking to under-
stand the relationship between active and passive incubation with the formation of
creative ideas. They found that a period of active incubation during idea generation
tasks resulted in significantly more divergently generated words, more remotely associ-
ated (non-cued) words, and in a non-cued paradigm, more creative words suggesting
that what one does during incubation may impact the effectiveness of incubation.
Likewise, using a different type of insight problem, Baird et al. (2012) also found a
benefit of active incubation; however, the greatest benefit was found not from a diffi-
cult distractor task, but rather from a task designed to promote mind-wandering.
Furthermore, a sleep study by Cai, Mednick, Harrison, Kanady, and Mednick (2009)
demonstrated that either a period of rest or sleep improved performance on remote
associate problems that participants attempted to solve prior to incubation, but not
to new remote associates problems. In addition, REM sleep, a process frequently asso-
ciated with unconscious semantic integration, helped participants take advantage of
implicit priming of correct answers performed after an initial attempt to solve the
problems but before sleep. These results suggest that the benefit of incubation
may not be primarily to help participants forget the mental representations causing
fixation but rather to promote unconscious neurocognitive processing conducive to
Insight Follows Incubation
Bowden and Jung-Beeman (2003a) developed a subjective measure of insight for
use with compound remote associates problems (CRA; Bowden & Jung-Beeman,
2003b) which are more standardized variants of Mednick’s (1962) classic remote asso-
ciates task problems. Bowden and Jung-Beeman (2003a) asked participants after they
had solved a CRA problem to report via a numeric scale, how much insight they
had experienced. Jung-Beeman and colleagues (Bowden & Jung-Beeman, 2003b; Jung-
Beeman et al., 2004; Kounios et al., 2006, 2008) have used various versions of this
methodology to perform post hoc sorting of problems based on the participant’s sub-
jective experience. Using this methodology they found evidence that processing as
measured by neural correlates differed during problem-solving when people later
reported the subjective experience of insight (Jung-Beeman et al., 2004). Using scalp
electroencephalography, neurocognitive processing immediately before insight solutions,
compared to non-insight solutions, were characterized by an increase in high
frequency (gamma) event-related oscillations in neural networks in the right anterior
superior temporal gyrus. This brain area is frequently associated with semantic
integration. Importantly, they also found evidence for neural activity (i.e., occipital
alpha event-related oscillations) indicative of visual gating just prior to the right tem-
poral activity, suggesting that solving with insight might involve inhibiting the exter-
nal world in favor of interior, perhaps unconscious processing. Likewise, Kounios
et al. (2008) identified a similar neural signature before participants even saw CRA
problems they subsequently reported solving with insight (Kounios et al., 2008),
suggesting that the mind-set during insight problem-solving could affect the type of
processing during problem-solving. Thus, problems solved with insight likely result
from unconscious semantic integration. For our present study, the experience of
insight after solving a problem can be used as an index for this type of processing,
which is distinct from the type of processing that occurs when a more analytic prob-
lem-solving strategy is employed.
In this study, we wanted to explore whether taking time away from a problem (i.e.,
incubation) may serve to change the nature of neurocognitive processing occurring dur-
ing incubation, as indexed by the experience of insight. Furthermore, we wanted to
investigate whether this change in processing was related to forgetting the mental repre-
sentations likely resulting from problem fixation before incubation.
We adapted Kohn and Smith’s (2009) paradigm for use with CRA problems (Bowden
& Jung-Beeman, 2003b) and created a two-word task for each problem to manipulate
the degree of fixation. As in Kohn and Smith, we manipulated incubation by either giv-
ing participants a second immediate opportunity to solve the problem, or instead giving
them a period of incubation where they performed a relatively easy working-memory dis-
tractor task. We then determined the type of neurocognitive processing likely occurring
during problem-solving by asking participants to report their subjective experience of
insight (Bowden & Jung-Beeman, 2003a; Jung-Beeman et al., 2004).
We hypothesized that incubation is not primarily about forgetting mental representa-
tions responsible for problem fixation and thus solution rates after incubation would not
be impacted by problem fixation prior to incubation. Secondly, we predicted that a
Journal of Creative Behavior
period of distracted incubation would cause a shift toward unconscious semantic integra-
tion as indexed by the subjective experience of insight on problem solution.
Eighty undergraduate students (60 female) from Loyola University Chicago partici-
pated in the experiment. Participants gave informed consent to take part in the study
and received course credit to compensate them for their time. The Loyola University
Chicago Institutional Review Board approved all recruitment methods and experimental
The primary task consisted of Compound Remote Associate problems (CRA; Bowden
& Jung-Beeman, 2003b). Each CRA problem consists of three relatively unrelated words
that can each be paired with a fourth target word that is a remote associate of each to
make three compound word pairs (see Figure 1 for an example problem). Problems were
selected to represent a range of difficulty as gauged from performance data in Bowden
and Jung-Beeman (2003b).
After the methods of Kohn and Smith (2009), we manipulated CRA problem fixation
through use of a preceding Two-Word Phrase Task (TWPT) problem corresponding to
each CRA problem. This task required participants to combine three presented words,
two of which were from the corresponding CRA problem, into two two-word phrases
(see Figure 1). This was intended to create a strong association for two of the CRA
words to a word that was not the correct CRA answer, and thereby induce CRA problem
fixation. We created unique stimuli for this study by finding a third word not in the
selected CRA problems that could be combined with two of the words from a given
CRA problem. We used the corresponding TWPT problem before the CRA problem in
the Blocking condition (see Figure 1b), while we used an unrelated TWPT problem
created from a different CRA problem used in the study in the Unrelated condition
(see Figure 1a).
Lastly, we used a Digit-Monitoring Task (DMT; Kohn & Smith, 2009) as the distrac-
tor task during incubation. In the DMT participants saw a series of digits from 1 to 9
presented one digit each second for 40 s. Participants were to track the total number of
times that two odd digits were presented in a row and report that at the end of the incu-
bation period.
The three tasks (TWPT, CRA, and DMT) were all implemented in e-Prime 2.0
(Schneider, Eschman, & Zuccolotto, 2002). Forty-four CRA problems were rotated
between four counterbalanced conditions (i.e., Unrelated/Direct, Unrelated/Incubate,
Blocking/Direct, Blocking/Incubate; see Figure 1 for a schematic of two of the condi-
tions). Each trial began with a TWPT problem for 20 s followed by a CRA problem. On
Direct trials if the participant did not solve the CRA problem in 20 s (Epoch 1) they
were given 10 additional seconds to solve the problem (Epoch 2). On Incubate trials if
they did not solve during Epoch 1 they performed the DMT for 40 s and then were
given an additional 10 s (Epoch 2) to solve the CRA problem. To encourage participants
Insight Follows Incubation
to form links between the TWPT and the CRA problems we used six additional CRA
problems in the Helping condition. In these problems the correct answer for the CRA
problem was given as the third word in the TWPT problem. CRA problems from the
Helping condition were not analyzed, but only used to increase problem fixation in the
Blocking condition.
FIGURE 1. (a) UnrelatedDirect and (b) BlockingIncubate example trials. In Unrelated
Compound Remote Associates (CRA) trials, the preceding Two Word Phrase
Task (TWPT) problem has no words in common with the CRA problem
while in Blocking CRA trials the preceding TWPT problem contains two of
the CRA problem words which pair with a third word that is not the correct
answer for the CRA problem, thereby increasing CRA problem fixation. In
Direct CRA trials, participants have two contiguous epochs to try to solve
the CRA problem, while in Incubate CRA trials the two epochs are separated
by a 40 s incubation period in which participants perform the Digit
Monitoring Task (DMT).
Journal of Creative Behavior
The definition of insight given to subjects was taken from Jung-Beeman et al. (2004).
The feeling of insight was described as a sudden experience in which a fully formed
answer came to mind all at once. Upon solving a CRA, subjects were asked if they expe-
rienced insight. The subjects responded verbally with either yes or no.
Due to the CRAs being divided into a first 20 s epoch and a second 10 s epoch, accu-
racy was calculated using resolution rates (Kohn & Smith, 2009). For the first epoch the
resolution rate was simply equal to the proportion solved correctly. For the second epoch
we corrected for the number of problems solved in the first epoch and used the number
of problems attempted during the second epoch as the denominator in the proportion
correct calculation.
Resolution rate in the first epoch was impacted by fixation with participants solving
fewer problems when they were preceded by a blocking TWPT than an unrelated TWPT
(see Figure 2; F(1, 79) =31.18, p<.001, g
Next we evaluated whether per-
formance in Epoch 2 was impacted by incubation and whether this interacted with our
fixation manipulation. A two-way within subjects ANOVA yielded a main effect of incu-
bation (see Figure 2; F(1, 79) =11.5, p=.001, g
=.031), but no main effect of fixa-
tionF(1, 79) =.48, p=.5, g
=.001and no interactionF(1, 79) =.73, p=.4,
=.001. Following the analysis of Kohn and Smith (2009) we also performed planned
comparisons to look at the effect of incubation on Blocking and Unrelated trials inde-
pendently. As in Kohn and Smith’s study, participants showed a reliable difference in
CRA resolution rate with respect to incubation in the Blocking condition (F(1,
79) =12.0, p=.001, g
=.056). However, unlike Kohn and Smith we found a trend
toward a difference for the unrelated condition as well (F(1, 79) =2.8, p=.10,
=.015), consistent with our failure to find a reliable interaction between incubation
FIGURE 2. In Epoch 1, there was a reliable effect of blocking on CRA resolution rates
demonstrating the effectiveness of the TWPT problem fixation manipulation.
In Epoch 2, there was a reliable effect of incubation, with no interaction with
initial TWPT induced fixation. Error bars represent 1 SEM.
Generalized eta squared (g
) was calculated according to the methods described in Bakeman (2005) and Olej-
nik and Algina (2003).
Insight Follows Incubation
and fixation. Thus, overall our results suggest that incubation aided in CRA problem-
solving regardless of the level of fixation as manipulated by the TWPT.
Overall, 62% of all correct answers were answered with insight and 38% were
answered without insight. In an effort to measure participant’s subjective experience of
insight within each condition, we calculated an insight score for each participant by sub-
tracting total number of correct non-insight answers from their total number of correct
insight answers and dividing by the resolution rate.
Insight score in the first epoch was impacted by fixation with participants reporting
greater insight on solution when they had less fixation as manipulated by the TWPT (see
Figure 3; F(1, 79) =6.59, p=.01, g
=.022). Next, we evaluated whether the experi-
ence of insight in Epoch 2 was impacted by incubation and whether this interacted with
our fixation manipulation. A two-way within subjects ANOVA yielded a main effect of
incubation (see Figure 3; F(1, 79) =9.0, p=.004, g
=.027), but no main effect of fix-
ationF(1, 79) =2.3, p=.14, g
=.005and no interactionF(1, 79) =.78, p=.4,
=.002. Our results suggest that incubation increased the experience of insight, just
as it aided solution performance. Likewise, the experience of insight after incubation does
not appear to be majorly impacted by the initial degree of problem fixation.
Using a similar incubation and fixation paradigm with different remote associates
problems, Kohn and Smith (2009) reported that incubation led to higher resolution rates
when participants were subjected to a task intended to cause problem fixation. They sug-
gested that this improvement was due to distraction during incubation helping partici-
pants overcome problem fixation by forgetting wrong associations. In our study, we
found that in spite of a strong initial fixation effect, incubation helped participants solve
problems regardless of the level of fixation. In addition, participants experienced greater
FIGURE 3. In the first epoch, reports of insight were significantly higher in the
unrelated condition suggesting that overcoming fixation was not responsible
for the experience of insight. In the second epoch, reports of insight were
greater following incubation suggesting that the incubation task helped
participants to elicit a mind-set change resulting in an insight solution. Error
bars represent 1 SEM.
Journal of Creative Behavior
insight when they successfully solved problems after incubation regardless of fixation
compared to when they successfully solved problems in a continuous period (Direct con-
dition). Our results suggest that incubation does contribute to the experience of insight
and this likely reflects a shift toward a problem-solving strategy involving unconscious
semantic integration.
While it appears that forgetting fixation does not account for the benefit of incuba-
tion or the increased experience of insight after incubation, it is less clear how incuba-
tion facilitates problem-solving and the experience of insight. Cai et al. (2009) study
suggests that one possible mechanism may relate to unconscious processing. In their
sleep study they found that the amount of REM sleep participants experienced before
attempting Remote Associates Task problems related to effectiveness of an implicit
semantic clue prior to sleep. Thus, REM sleep may facilitate integration of semantic
information, a hypothesis consistent with Jung-Beeman and colleague’s (Bowden &
Jung-Beeman, 2003a) identification of increased gamma activity in right superior tempo-
ral cortex prior to problems successfully solved with the experience of insight. Likewise,
alpha bursts are also commonly observed during REM sleep and also prior to remote
associate solutions where participants report insight. However, to promote this type of
processing in awake problem solvers it may be necessary to distract them from the pri-
mary problem and their current problem-solving strategy. Sio and Ormerod’s (2009)
recent meta-analysis of incubation in problem-solving suggested that mildly distracting
tasks, rather than just time away from the problem optimized the effects of incubation.
However, not all distractor tasks are equally effective in promoting insight. Baird et al.
(2012) found that a more demanding task resulted in less improvement than a less
demanding task that encouraged mind wandering. Thus, it is possible that the working
memory distractor task we used during incubation in our study helped to stop analytic
processing and allowed for the type of unconscious semantic integration that facilitates
insight solutions.
Another role for incubation may be to shift the mood of the participant. In our study
when participants solved CRA problems during the first epoch prior to incubation they
reported less insight when they had previously solved a TWPT problem intended to
create CRA problem fixation than when they solved an unrelated TWPT problem (see
Figure 3 Epoch 1). It is possible that the frustration resulting from fixation may encour-
age a negative mood. Several previous studies have suggested that participants are more
likely to solve insight problems when they are in a positive mood (e.g., Isen, Daubman,
& Nowicki, 1987; Subramaniam, Kounios, Parrish, & Jung-Beeman, 2009). Subramaniam
and colleagues showed that when people were high in self-reported positive affect prior
to testing they were more likely to solve CRA problems and report insight. van Steen-
burgh et al. (2012) have speculated that this effect of positive affect may be due to the
ability of positive affect to encourage a broadening of attention (see also Rowe, Hirsch,
& Anderson, 2007). A broad attentional focus has long been known to be associated with
creative behavior (e.g., Ansburg & Hill, 2003; Mendelsohn & Griswold, 1966). While it
seems unlikely that performing the DMT incubation task in the present study would
likely elicit a positive mood it is possible that the distraction from being stuck on a
problem may result in some release from a negative mood perhaps resulting in a broader
attentional mindset. Further study is needed to determine if the initial emotional state of
a problem solver could be mitigated through tasks designed to change mind-set in spe-
Insight Follows Incubation
cific ways. By manipulating emotions and mind-set, it may be possible to identify
multiple cognitive conditions that lead to the subjective experience of insight in problem
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Robert G. Morrison, Sean W. McCarthy, John M. Molony, Loyola University Chicago
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Robert G. Morrison, Department of Psychology,
Loyola University Chicago, 1032 W Sheridan Road, Chicago, IL 60660. E-mail:
The authors wish to thank Kelly Brandstadt, Stephanie Hare, and Leonidas Skiadoupolis for assistance in collecting
data and Krishna Bharani for technical support. We also thank Mark Beeman and Marcia Grabowecky for helpful
discussions and two anonymous reviewers for excellent suggestions on an earlier version of the manuscript. The
work described in this paper was presented at the International Conference on Thinking, London, England, and at
the 35th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society held in Berlin, Germany.
Insight Follows Incubation
... Self-reports of aha experiences have become a standard behavioural measure to indicate when a problem has been solved through insight (Aziz-Zadeh, Kaplan, & Iacoboni, 2009;Bowden, 1997;Danek & Wiley, 2017;Jung-Beeman et al., 2004;Laukkonen & Tangen, 2018;Morrison, McCarthy, & Molony, 2017;Salvi, Bricolo, Bowden, Kounios, & Beeman, 2016). Some studies use self-reports of aha experience to analyse potential differences in neural networks underlying the problem solving process (e.g., Bowden & Jung-Beeman, 2003a;Kounios et al., 2006;Luo et al., 2004). ...
... The remote associates task was originally developed by Mednick (Mednick, 1962), but modified by Bowden and Jung-Beeman (Bowden & Jung-Beeman, 2003b), who used words for which a fourth word could be combined to create different compound words with the three presented words (e.g., wise, tower, and work combine with clock). Bowden and Jung-Beeman termed this task the compound remote associates task and presented normative data regarding solution rates and reaction times (Ball & Stevens, 2009;Bowden & Jung-Beeman, 2003a;Chein & Weisberg, 2014;Cranford & Moss, 2012;Morrison et al., 2017;Steenburgh, 2011). Compound remote associates have been translated and adapted into various languages, including Chinese (Wangbing Shen et al., 2015), German (Kizilirmak et al., 2016;Rothmaler et al., 2017), Italian (Salvi, Costantini, Bricolo, Perugini, & Beeman, 2016) and Dutch (Chermahini, Hickendorff, & Hommel, 2012). ...
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Insight has been investigated under the assumption that participants solve insight problems with insight processes and/or experiences. A recent trend has involved presenting participants with the solution and analysing the resultant experience as if insight has taken place. We examined self-reports of the aha experience, a defining aspect of insight, before and after feedback, along with additional affective components of insight (e.g., pleasure, surprise, impasse). Classic insight problems, compound remote associates, and non-insight problems were randomly interleaved and presented to participants. Solution feedback increased ratings of aha experience in both insight and non-insight problems, with this result being driven by responses to solutions that were initially incorrectly generated. Ratings of aha for correctly generated solutions decreased after the correct solution was presented. These findings have implications for insight research paradigms as well as informing teaching methods.
... An incubation effect occurs when time spent away from a problem (i.e., an incubation period; Wallas, 1926) results in better performance on that problem than what would have occurred without time spent away (Smith & Blankenship, 1989; for a review, see Sio & Ormerod, 2009a). There are many theories regarding how an incubation period benefits problem solving and divergent thinking (e.g., Beeftink, Van Eerde, & Rutte, 2008;Ellwood, Pallier, Snyder, & Gallate, 2009;Lehrer, 2008;Miller & Cohen, 2001;Morrison, McCarthy, & Molony, 2017;Ohlsson, 1984Ohlsson, , 1992Scheerer, 1963;Segal, 2004;Weisberg, 1995Weisberg, , 2006Weisberg, , 2013; according to the forgetting fixation hypothesis, however, incubation effects can occur because taking time away from a problem allows fixating information to become inaccessible and thus less likely to limit or constrain creative thinking (Kohn & Smith, 2009;Smith, 1995;Smith & Blankenship, 1989;Smith & Linsey, 2011). In the remote associates test, for example, participants are presented with three seemingly unrelated words and asked to find a new word that forms a relationship with each of the words (e.g. ...
... Obviously, people are unlikely to always drift toward ideas and spaces that are useful, but they may do so occasionally, and the potential benefits of happening upon a new and truly creative connection may more than outweigh the potential costs of more frequently happening upon something that is not useful. Indeed, some creativity research has argued that people are able to come to new insight through the unconscious spreading activation from one idea to another (e.g., Morrison et al., 2017;Sio & Ormerod, 2009b;Sio & Rudowicz, 2007;Yaniv & Meyer, 1987). ...
Schacter’s (2001) work on The Seven Sins of Memory conceptualized and communicated many of the failures of memory and their critical role in cognition. At the heart of the framework is the idea that memory often fails not because it is dysfunctional or maladaptive, but because it prioritizes flexibility and the ability to think and behave adaptively over the ability to retain and remember veraciously. This article adapts the 7 sins framework to a new domain—that of creative cognition. Each of the 7 sins are discussed in relation to how they might play a role in allowing people to generate new ideas, solve problems, and overcome the various barriers that hinder creative thought. Expanding upon the creative cognition approach, it is argued that memory and creativity are intrinsically interconnected and that one’s ability to think and behave creatively relies in part on the ability to forget and misremember.
... A total of 37 studies explored the process of insight problem solving using RAT, including how individuals' memory (e.g., false memory) affects their developing insight (Howe et al., 2010(Howe et al., , 2011(Howe et al., , 2016Garner and Howe, 2014;Kizilirmak et al., 2016b;Ellis and Brewer, 2018;Howe and Garner, 2018), the incubation mechanism, such as dreams (Sio and Rudowicz, 2007;Vul and Pashler, 2007;Cai et al., 2009;Kohn and Smith, 2009;Penaloza and Calvillo, 2012;Nam and Lee, 2015;Sio and Ormerod, 2015;Morrison et al., 2017;Sio et al., 2017), how representational change affects one's insight problem solving (Barton et al., 2009), the aha! experience of insight (Bowden and Jung-Beeman, 2003b;Du et al., 2017;Kraus and Holtgraves, 2018), the mechanisms that occur in the brain when solving insight problems, such as brain networks, brain structure, brain function, and brain waves (Sandkühler and Bhattacharya, 2008;Kizilirmak et al., 2016a;Shen et al., 2016b;Rothmaler et al., 2017;Erickson et al., 2018;Ji et al., 2018;Ogawa et al., 2018;Ruggiero et al., 2018;Tik et al., 2018;Tempest and Radel, 2019), and eye movements (Huang, 2017;Huang et al., 2019). In addition, some studies focused on how individuals' attention (Cushen and Wiley, 2018;Zmigrod et al., 2019), meta-cognition (Storm and Hickman, 2015), creative thinking fluency (Ansburg, 2000), and intuition (Kizilirmak et al., 2018) influence insight problem solving. ...
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The study examines how the remote associates test (RAT) has been used to examine theories of creativity through a review of recent studies on creativity. Creativity-related studies published between 2000 and 2019 were retrieved from the SCOPUS database. A total of 172 papers were chosen for further analysis. Content analysis shows that research on creativity using RAT mainly concerns remote association, insight problem-solving, general creative process, test development, individual difference, effect of treatment, clinical case, social interaction effect, and predictor or criterion. The study constructs a theoretical framework based on the 4P (Product-Person-Process-Place) model and demonstrates how empirical studies using the RAT explore the individual differences, internal processes, and external influences of creative thinking. In addition, the most commonly used version of the RAT is the Compound Remote Associates Problems (Bowden and Jung-Beeman, 2003a). Current research shows a trend whereby the creative thinking process has been receiving greater attention. In particular, a growing number of studies in this field have been carried out using cognitive neuroscience technologies. These findings suggest that the RAT provides researchers with a way to deepen their understanding of different levels of creativity.
... The greater robustness of intuitive judgment compared to analytical judgment in dealing with missing information can be explained by a feature of parallel processing that has been called "graceful degradation": In contrast to parallel processing of many input elements, sequential step-by-step processing is likely to break down if only one element in the sequence is missing. Likewise, the fact that intuitive judgment outperforms analytical judgment whenever many, even remotely associated, inputs (constraints) have to be taken into account (Bowden, Jung-Beeman, Fleck, & Kounios, 2005;Morrison, McCarthy, & Molony, 2017), can be related to "multiple constraint satisfaction", a key feature of parallel processing. ...
... The greater robustness of intuitive judgment compared to analytical judgment in dealing with missing information can be explained by a feature of parallel processing that has been called "graceful degradation": In contrast to parallel processing of many input elements, sequential step-by-step processing is likely to break down if only one element in the sequence is missing. Likewise, the fact that intuitive judgment outperforms analytical judgment whenever many, even remotely associated, inputs (constraints) have to be taken into account (Bowden, Jung-Beeman, Fleck, & Kounios, 2005;Morrison, McCarthy, & Molony, 2017), can be related to "multiple constraint satisfaction", a key feature of parallel processing. ...
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In this chapter, we present the theory of Personality Systems Interactions (PSI) as a meta framework for analyzing the functional architecture of human motivation and personality functioning. Section 1 delineates how PSI theory integrates various traditional motivation theories into seven distinct levels of human motivation and individual differences thereof. Section 2 covers principles of PSI theory that determine how motivational systems, located at the same level or at different levels, interact with each other. Sections 3 and 4 show how these principles can explain two major paradoxes in motivation psychology, namely a) people’s frequent failure to act upon their best intentions, and b) people’s tendency to adopt goals that run counter to their personal preferences and needs. Section 5 discusses how PSI theory conceives of implicit motives as “switch boards” that connect motivational systems at different levels. Section 6 reports neuroscientific evidence supporting PSI theory. Finally, Section 7 reflects more broadly on PSI theory’s key contributions to motivation science and its applications.
... Several studies have found that incubation intervals facilitate solving insight problems (Penney, Godsell, Scott, & Balsom, 2004;Segal, 2004). Incubation implies that the unconscious mind has the ability to work on ideas or problems while the active mind is engaged elsewhere in pursuit of other ends, and has been shown to be effective at reducing fixation and enhancing creativity (Cai, Mednick, Harrison, Kanady, & Mednick, 2009;Kohn & Smith, 2011;Morrison, McCarthy, & Molony, 2015.) If an individual has enough time to work on a problem, the fixating, confusing or misdirecting problems that caused the fixation will be forgotten; however, the benefits of incubation are concurrent with challenging problems that may have misdirection at the heart of the fixation (Vul & Pashler, 2007). ...
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Employing forgetting fixation theory, we distinguish between passive and active procrastinators by examining their impacts on creativity along with the moderating roles of emotional stability and conscientiousness. Across two independent studies with students (Study 1) and the general public (Study 2), we found different effects on self-reported versus expert-rated task creativity. Passive procrastination had a negative relationship with self-reported creativity but a positive relationship with expert-rated creativity. The four dimensions of active procrastination had mixed effects on creativity. The effects of a person's ability to meet deadlines-a facet of active procrastination-on both creativity measures were further enhanced by conscientiousness. Emotional stability weakened the positive effect of another facet of active procrastination, preference for pressure, on expert-rated creativity. By delineating the differential relationship of two types of procrastination with creativity, this study highlights the importance of refining a model of purposeful delay in creativity.
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A problem arises when an organism has a goal and it is not immediately apparent how the goal can be attained. Most real-world problems cannot be solved via an exhaustive search of all possibilities, but rather must be solved by breaking the problem down into smaller parts, or through reasoning by analogy to similar problems solved in the past. Both of these alternatives rely heavily on the prefrontal cortex and the working memory system, particularly the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and frontopolar cortex.
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Five experiments with approximately 266 college students explored the dynamic metacognitions that accompany the problem- and anagram-solving processes. Ss repeatedly rated how warm or close they were to solution. High feelings of warmth before an answer indicated that the answer would be incorrect. Moderately low warmth ratings characterized correct responses. The data suggest that the high warmth ratings may result from a process wherein Ss convince themselves that an inelegant but plausible (wrong) answer is correct. No gradual rationalization process precedes the correct response to insight problems. The warmth-rating data also indicate that when the correct answer was given to the problems and anagrams used in this study, there was usually a subjectively catastrophic insight process. (29 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Although anecdotes that creative thoughts often arise when one is engaged in an unrelated train of thought date back thousands of years, empirical research has not yet investigated this potentially critical source of inspiration. We used an incubation paradigm to assess whether performance on validated creativity problems (the Unusual Uses Task, or UUT) can be facilitated by engaging in either a demanding task or an undemanding task that maximizes mind wandering. Compared with engaging in a demanding task, rest, or no break, engaging in an undemanding task during an incubation period led to substantial improvements in performance on previously encountered problems. Critically, the context that improved performance after the incubation period was associated with higher levels of mind wandering but not with a greater number of explicitly directed thoughts about the UUT. These data suggest that engaging in simple external tasks that allow the mind to wander may facilitate creative problem solving.
In the century since the Gestalt psychologists introduced insight as a component process of perception and problem solving, researchers have studied the phenomenological, behavioral, and neural components of insight. Whether and how insight is different from other types of problem solving, such as analysis, has been a topic of considerable interest and some contention. In this chapter we develop a working definition of insight and detail the history of insight research by focusing on questions about the influence of the problem solver's prior knowledge, the origins and significance of representational change, and the roles of impasse and incubation. We also review more recent investigations of the neurological correlates of insight, discuss neurobehavioral states that facilitate or inhibit insightful problem solving, and highlight new methods and techniques that are proving useful in extending our knowledge of insight.
The cognition that gives rise to creative thinking is not a singular process or operation; rather, it consists of many different cognitive structures and processes that can collaborate in a variety of ways to construct different types of creative products. Cognition that is often relevant to creativity includes remote association, conceptual combination, visualization, retrieving and mapping analogies, reasoning, insight problem solving, implicit and explicit cognition, abstraction, and mental models.
This chapter proposes that the concept of genius is intimately related with concepts of intelligence, and that genius relates to other unusual gifts that sets the bearer well apart from the average person. The chapter uses the concept of genius as far more rich and complex than the concept of general intelligence. Jensen's list of components is used in tri-dimensional theory. In addition to discussing the multidimensionality of genius, the chapter also comments critically on genius as multiplicative and on aspects related to productivity. Further, detail of chance–configuration theory against Jensen's critique is presented. the chapter suggests that genius is a result of multidimensional and multiplicative processes in terms of concept of emergenesis. This chapter discusses the relation between genius and general intelligence, or what is often referred to as Spearman's g. The chapter also explores the concept general intelligence that is inherited.
Incubation has long been proposed as a mechanism in creative problem solving (Wallas, 1926). A new trial-by-trial method for observing incubation effects was used to compare the forgetting fixation hypothesis with the conscious work hypothesis. Two experiments examined the effects of incubation on initially unsolved Remote Associates Test (RAT) problems. Following exposure to misleading clues designed to induce initial fixation on RAT problems, versus no clues, participants were retested on problems either immediately after their first attempt (no-incubation), or after a 40-second incubation period. Resolution of initially unsolved RAT problems (fixated versus non-fixated) was examined as a function of complete interruption (Experiment 1) or partial distraction (Experiment 2). An incubation effect, that is, better resolution of initially unsolved problems retested after a delay rather than retesting immediately, was seen only in Experiment 1, in which unsolved problems were completely removed from sight. Furthermore, an incubation effect was found only for initially fixated problems, and not for problems that were not accompanied by misleading clues. The results are consistent with the forgetting fixation hypothesis (Smith & Blankenship, 1989), which states that putting unsolved problems completely out of mind allows initial fixation to dissipate, and the results indicate that the opportunity for some conscious work during incubation periods may not be optimal for resolving fixation.
To study productive thinking where it is most conspicuous in great achievements is certainly a temptation, and without a doubt, important information about the genesis of productive thought could be found in biographical material. A problem arises when a living creature has a goal but does not know how this goal is to be reached. Whenever one cannot go from the given situation to the desired situation simply by action, then there has to be recourse to thinking. The subjects ( S s), who were mostly students of universities or of colleges, were given various thinking problems, with the request that they think aloud. This instruction, "Think aloud", is not identical with the instruction to introspect which has been common in experiments on thought-processes. While the introspecter makes himself as thinking the object of his attention, the subject who is thinking aloud remains immediately directed to the problem, so to speak allowing his activity to become verbal. It is the shift of function of the components of a complex mathematical pattern—a shift which must so often occur if a certain structure is to be recognized in a given pattern—it is this restructuration, more precisely: this transformation of function within a system, which causes more or less difficulty for thinking, as one individual or another tries to find a mathematical proof.