Learning via Insight

AbstractProblem solving can be understood as a very active learning strategy which is also being employed in education, even though the mechanisms behind it are poorly understood (Loyens, Kirschner, & Paas, 2012). Insight in problem solving is often heralded as a moment of blinding understanding which generates a great deal of motivation (Liljedahl, 2005). Research on insight focuses on these moments, examining the cognitive processes that lead to this feeling of sudden understanding alongside the solution, and on methods of eliciting these electrifying sensations reliably (e.g., Webb, Little, & Cropper, 2017). An important consideration in insight research is the considerable differences in operationalizations of “insight” between studies. For example, Mednick (1962) operationalised insight/creativity as the ability to solve a verbal association problem (the remote associates task, RAT), in which participants are presented with three remotely associated words, and are required to find a single fourth word that provides a common link between the three (e.g., cottage, blue, goat–cheese). If the words were already closely associated, it would not require creativity to find the missing link. Insight has therefore sometimes been operationalized as a sudden switch from a state of incomprehension, to a state of comprehension, which might be induced by presenting the solution (Auble et al., 1979; Webb et al., 2018). This definition has held for a long time, with substantial shifts in more recent years. Increasingly, the presence of a subjective ‘‘aha!’’ experience is considered necessary to interpret a solution to a problem as an insight (e.g., Bowden & Jung-Beeman, 2003). Finally, some researchers have proposed that insight does not necessarily include a state of incomprehension, but needs mental restructuring (Wills, Estow, Soraci, & Garcia, 2006).

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