Incubation in Insight Problem Solving

A break in the attentive activity devoted to a problem may eventually facilitate the solution process. This phenomenon is known by the name incubation. A new hypothesis regarding incubation mechanism is suggested. It is based on analysis of the structure of insights problems and their solution process. According to this hypothesis, no activity takes place during the break. The break’s only function is to divert the solver’s attention from the problem, thus releasing her mind from the grip of a false organizing assumption. This enables the solver to apply a new organizing assumption to the problem’s components upon returning to the problem. The numbers of experimental studies that confirm the existence of the incubation phenomenon, and those that do not support it, are roughly equal, thus primary experimental aim of the study is to improve the methodology of manipulating the break. The results indicate that the break improves performance in insight problem solving, but its length does not make a difference. This supports the suggested hypothesis and does not support hypotheses that postulate unconscious ongoing processes during the break.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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