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Creativity: Understanding Innovation
of this study that people have great difficulty approaching a problem on its own terms if they have information that is relevant to it.
Other studies that have been interpreted as demonstrating the interfering effects of past experience on problem solving and creative thinking have been carried out by Frensch and Sternberg (1989) and by Ward (1995), among others. In a study already discussed in the context of expertise in Chapter 4, Frensch and Sternberg showed that expert bridge players were less able to cope with changes in the structure of bridge than were less-experienced players, which seems to indicate that expertise can interfere with adjustment to new problematic situations. Ward found that people who were asked to create entirely new species of organisms (in a test of imaginative ability) seemed to be negatively affected by their knowledge of creatures on Earth: The new creatures were structured in ways similar to creatures on Earth (e.g., symmetrical, with similar sense organs). Thus, there was a lack of novelty in the new creatures. Ward took those results as evidence that, in order to create novel species (such as for science fiction), an individual must have a way of breaking away from his or her knowledge about the creatures we see around us.
Evidence for Nonanalytic Processes in Insight
We have now seen evidence for several critical aspects of the Gestalt view of insight. Metcalfe’s (Metcalfe & Wiebe, 1987) research demonstrated that problem solving can occur in an Aha! experience. The research of Durso and colleagues (1994) showed that insightful problem solving involves restructuring, and several studies have demonstrated detrimental effects of experience on insightful problem solving. A further critical issue from the Gestalt perspective is that the restructuring and Aha! reactions during solution of insight problems come about through processes different from those used in solving analytic problems. Several different sorts of evidence have been brought forth to support that claim.
Verbal Overshadowing of Insight
Schooler and colleagues (Schooler, Ohlsson, & Brooks, 1993) reasoned that if analytic problems are solved through step-by-step methods, people ought to be able to verbalize what they are thinking about at any point during the problem-solving process. If, on the other hand, insight problems are solved through a sudden perception-like restructuring of the situation, then people might not be able to describe what has happened. Therefore, asking them to produce a verbal protocol might actually interfere with the solving of insight problems. Schooler and colleagues accordingly collected verbal protocols while people worked on insight and analytic problems. Results
The Question of Insight in Problem Solving
of the study indicated that asking people to think aloud during problem solving interfered with solution of insight problems but did not interfere with performance on non-insight-based problems. Schooler and colleagues called this result verbal overshadowing of insight. They concluded that verbal overshadowing indicates that insight and analytic problems are solved using different methods, and that the methods underlying the solution of insight problems may be nonverbal (i.e., perceptual or nonanalytic) in nature.
Hemispheric Differences in Solving Insight Problems
In order to demonstrate the uniqueness of restructuring as a process, Bowden and Beeman (1998) examined hemispheric differences in solution of insight problems. Evidence indicates that the two cerebral hemispheres process verbal information differently. When a stimulus word is presented to the left hemisphere, which is done by showing the word in the far right-hand part of the visual field, as shown in Figure 6.5A, it activates different asso-
A. Visual fields and hemispheres
B. Example problems
For each set of three words, find one other word that, when paired with each individual word, makes a common phrase in English.
1. high / house / district (answer is school: high school; schoolhouse; school
2. palm / shoe / house (answer is tree)
3. pie / luck / belly (answer is pot)
4. pine / crab / sauce (answer is apple)
Figure 6.5 Beeman and Bowden left hemisphere versus right hemisphere study of problem solving
Creativity: Understanding Innovation
ciates from when it is presented to the right hemisphere. Left-hemisphere processing involves activation of words closely related in meaning to the presented word, while right-hemisphere processing results in activation of more distantly related words. Bowden and Beeman carried out several studies in which college students tried to solve simple verbal insight problems, like those presented in Figure 6.5B. Three cue words are presented, each of which forms a common phrase in English when combined with the same fourth word, and the task is to determine that fourth word. Solution of those problems requires that the person use remote associations to the cue words, because the connections between the solution word and the three cue words are not always direct. When people solve such problems, they sometimes experience an Aha! moment, so Bowden and Beeman classified those types of solutions as resulting from insight.