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Creativity: Understanding Innovation
of Kaplan and Simon, since a personâ€™s reaching impasse did not precipitate bottom-up restructuring.
The Qestalt View: Summary and Conclusions
The research reviewed here in support of the Gestalt view and its neoGestalt offspring is summarized in Table 6.3. That support ranged from the classic studies of Kohler (1925) and Duncker (1945) to Scheererâ€™s (1963) influential discussion of the role of fixation in problem solving. Metcalfe (Metcalfe & Wiebe, 1987) has presented evidence that humans can solve laboratory problems in an Aha! experience, and Durso and colleagues (1994) showed that restructuring can occur in problem solving. Evidence of the importance of fixation in problem solving was presented by Jansson and Smith (1991), and support for the idea that insight and analysis are different ways of solving problems was provided by Schooler and colleaguesâ€™ (1993) demonstration of verbal overshadowing of insight, as well as by the studies of Bowden and Beeman (1998) and of Lavric and colleagues
(2000). Finally, studies examining various aspects of the neo-Gestalt view have been carried out by Ormerod and colleagues (2002) and by Kaplan and Simon (1990), and those studies have been only partly supportive of the neo-Gestalt analysis.
Challenges to the Qestalt View
In the years from 1930 to 1980, there was not a great deal of interest in problem solving in mainstream American psychology, which at that time was strongly behavioristic in its orientation. American behaviorism attempted to break down complex situations into their basic stimulus-response (S-R) building blocks, so all complex behavior was analyzed into learningâ€”that is, the establishment of S-R connections. This assumptionâ€”that complex behavior was made up of simple building blocksâ€”led many American psychologists away from the study of complex human activities, including problem solving. One exception to this trend was Newell and Simonâ€™s (1972) contribution to the development of the cognitive perspective in psychology, which, as was discussed in Chapter 3, began with a focus on problem solving. However, that view had not yet become dominant in the study of cognition. Therefore, essentially by default, the Gestalt view of insight and fixation in problem solving, based on nonanalytic processes analogous to those underlying restructuring in perception, became the dominant perspective. Along with the de facto dominance of Gestalt psychology came the distinction between insight and analysis as separate modes of solving problems. That dichotomy can be seen in present-day discussions of insight, which
The Question of Insight in Problem Solving
Table 6.3 Summary of research supporting the Gestalt theory
Study Method and results
(A) Kohler (1917) Insight in animals; based on perception-like processes, not dependent on experience.
(B) Metcalfe (1987); Metcalfe & Weibe (1987) Feeling-of-warmth judgments showed sudden increase for insight problems versus gradual increase for analytic problems; insight problems solved suddenly.
(C) Durso et al. (1994) Restructuring in Bartender problem measured by relatedness responses to pairs of words.
(D) Scheerer (1963) Discussion of fixation in Nine-Dot problem based on square configuration of dots (no experimental results presented).
(E) Duncker (1945) Functional fixedness: Usual use of object interferes with using it in novel way.
(F) Jansson & Smith (1991) Design fixation: Presence of example with to-be-avoided features results in those features being included in designs.
(G) Schooler et al. (1993) Verbal overshadowing of insight: Talking aloud during problem solving interfered with solution of insight problems compared with analytic problems.
(H) Bowden & Beeman (1998) Hemispheric differences in solving insight problems: Right-hemisphere presentation of cues is better than left-hemisphere presentation.
(I) Lavric et al. (2000) Working memory and planning in solving insight versus analytic problems. Dual-task design interfered with solution of analytic problems, but not insight. Planning not important in insight.
(J) Ormerod et al. (2002) Ease of solution of matchstick-arithmetic problems predicted on the basis of breadth of constraint that had to be relaxed.
(K) Kaplan & Simon (1990) Solution of Mutilated Checkerboard problem was facilitated by pointing out parity cue.
Creativity: Understanding Innovation
sometimes make a distinction between analytic and creative modes of solving problems (e.g., Ansburg, 2000). Solving a problem through analytic means is assumed to be without creativity, and solving a problem through insight is equated with creative solution. The Gestalt view has thus convinced many people that the only way to think creatively is through the restructuring of a problem, which is independent of logical analysis and experience.
However, during that time of default dominance of the Gestalt view, several findings were published that, from my perspective, raised serious challenges to the Gestalt analysis of restructuring and insight in problem solving (e.g., Fleck & Weisberg, 2004; Harlow, 1949; Perkins, 1981; Weisberg & Alba, 1981; Weisberg & Suls, 1973). Overall, those findings did not have a major effect on theorizing concerning insight, as can be seen by the enduring influence of the Gestalt view and the neo-Gestalt view, which, as we have seen, is the classic Gestalt view in a somewhat different guise. I propose to reconsider those neglected findings and to examine the consequences they hold for our understanding of insight. I will demonstrate that serious questions can be raised about the basic foundations of the Gestalt view. This will lead to the conclusion that an alternative should be considered to the Gestalt and neo-Gestalt views of restructuring and insight.