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In support of the idea that perceptual processes were important in problem solving, Kohler found that, in order for the animal to use the stick to rake in the banana, it was crucial that the stick be lying between the ape and the banana, so that the stick could be perceived as a potential extension of the animal’s arm (Kohler, 1925). If the stick was off to the side or behind the animal, so that the banana, stick, and arm could not be seen in one glance, then the stick would not be used. If, however, the situation was structured correctly, then things would fall into place and the solution would be produced as an integrated whole, without the fumbling trial and
Creativity: Understanding Innovation
error exhibited by Thorndike’s animals (Humphrey, 1963, Chap. 6). No specific information or knowledge was needed.
Insight in Humans: Evidence for the Occurrence of Aha! Experiences in the Laboratory
Metcalfe (1987; Metcalfe & Wiebe, 1987) carried out several studies that provided evidence for the occurrence of Aha! experiences when humans solve insight problems under controlled laboratory conditions. Her method involved a variation on the child’s game in which a blindfolded person is searching for something and we tell the searcher that he or she is getting warmer or colder as he or she moves around the environment. Increases in warmth (“You’re getting warm . . . warmer . . . hot . . . very hot . . . burning”) mean that the person is getting closer to the target, and increases in coldness (“You’re getting cold . . . colder . . . freezing”) mean that he or she is moving farther away. Metcalfe used a similar method to assess people’s subjective experiences as they were working on insight versus analytic problems: Participants provided ratings of how “warm” they felt—feeling-of-warmth ratings—as they worked through a problem. This was done several times a minute, providing an almost continuous record of the participants’ beliefs concerning how close they were to solution of the problem. Metcalfe hypothesized that, if insight problems are solved in an Aha! experience, there ought to be a sudden surge in the warmth ratings just before solution, with little or no increase before that point. In contrast, if analytic problems (e.g., long-division problems or the Towers of Hanoi problem [Table 3.3, p. 120]) are solved through a gradual working-out of the solution, then the warmth ratings for such problems should show a gradual increase as the solution is approached.
The warmth ratings obtained by Metcalfe and Wiebe (1987) supported those predictions. For insight problems, there was little increase in warmth until just before solution, which supports the idea that solution occurred suddenly, in a burst of insight. For non-insight-based problems, on the other hand, a gradual increase in warmth was found, indicating that the person was working through the solution, which allowed the accurate prediction of how things were progressing. Metcalfe’s findings demonstrated that solutions to insight problems can come about in an Aha! experience, and her method has been used by others to examine subjective experiences during problem solving (e.g., Davidson, 1995; Bowers, Farvolden, & Mermigis, 1995).
Laboratory Evidence for Restructuring in Problem Solving
The demonstration of Aha! experiences by Metcalfe and Wiebe (1987) is support for only one component of insight. The Gestalt view postulates that an Aha! experience during problem solving results from restructuring
The Question of Insight in Problem Solving
A man walks into a bar and asks for a glass of water. The bartender points a shotgun at the man. The man says “Thank you” and walks out. What was going on?
Solution: Man had hiccups; bartender startled him and cured them.
B. Results: Relatedness ratings
^ Related “Unrelated ^ “Insight
Naive Story Solved-2 Solved-1 Solved
Figure 6.4 Bartender problem Source: Durso et al. (1994).
of the problem. Metcalfe provided no direct evidence that restructuring had occurred, since she measured only feelings of warmth. Durso and colleagues (Durso, Bea, & Dayton, 1994) used the Bartender problem presented in Figure 6.4A to demonstrate restructuring in problem solving. The Bartender problem seems to require a restructuring before the solution can occur, because, on hearing the story, one thinks that the bartender is pointing the gun at the person in self-defense. The thinker must change that structure in order to solve the problem. To provide a measure of the structure among the elements in the problem, people were asked to judge the relatedness of pairs of words that were connected in various ways to the problem. Some of the pairs of words had been judged by other people as being related in the problem as it was presented (relatedpairs: bartender—bar; gun—loaded). Unrelated pairs were not judged as being related, either in the problem as presented or in the problem as solved (e.g., pretzel—shotgun; TV—remedy). Finally, insight pairs had been judged as becoming related only after the solution of the problem was discovered (e.g., surprise—remedy; relieved—thank you). Individuals were asked to judge the relatedness of the word pairs at several points: before they heard the problem (when they were naive); after they heard the problem (in response to the story); every 10 minutes as they worked on the problem; and after they solved the problem.