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12.2.2: Insight

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    There are two very different ways of approaching a goal-oriented situation. In one case an organism readily reproduces the response to the given problem from past experience. This is called reproductive thinking. The second way requires something new and different to achieve the goal, prior learning is of little help here. Such productive thinking is (sometimes) argued to involve insight. Gestalt psychologists even state that insight problems are a separate category of problems in their own right.

    Tasks that might involve insight usually have certain features - they require something new and non-obvious to be done and in most cases they are difficult enough to predict that the initial solution attempt will be unsuccessful. When you solve a problem of this kind you often have a so called "AHA-experience" - the solution pops up all of a sudden. At one time you do not have any ideas of the answer to the problem, you do not even feel to make any progress trying out different ideas, but in the next second the problem is solved. For all those readers who would like to experience such an effect, here is an example for an Insight Problem: Knut is given four pieces of a chain; each made up of three links. The task is to link it all up to a closed loop and he has only 15 cents. To open a link costs 2, to close a link costs 3 cents. What should Knut do?

    Figure 3. A link Chain []

    To show that solving insight problems involves restructuring, psychologists created a number of problems that were more difficult to solve for participants provided with previous experiences, since it was harder for them to change the representation of the given situation (see Fixation).

    Sometimes given hints may lead to the insight required to solve the problem. And this is also true for involuntarily given ones. For instance it might help you to solve a memory game if someone accidentally drops a card on the floor and you look at the other side. Although such help is not obviously a hint, the effect does not differ from that of intended help. For non- insight problems the opposite is the case. Solving arithmetical problems, for instance, requires schemas, through which one can get to the solution step by step.

    This page titled 12.2.2: Insight is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Mehgan Andrade and Neil Walker.