J. Jason van Steenburgh, Jessica I. Fleck, Mark Beeman and John Kounios

in The Oxford Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199734689
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology


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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience



In the century since the Gestalt psychologists introduced insight as a component process of perception and problem solving, researchers have studied the phenomenological, behavioral, and neural components of insight. Whether and how insight is different from other types of problem solving, such as analysis, has been a topic of considerable interest and some contention. In this chapter we develop a working definition of insight and detail the history of insight research by focusing on questions about the influence of the problem solver's prior knowledge, the origins and significance of representational change, and the roles of impasse and incubation. We also review more recent investigations of the neurological correlates of insight, discuss neurobehavioral states that facilitate or inhibit insightful problem solving, and highlight new methods and techniques that are proving useful in extending our knowledge of insight.

Keywords: knowledge; fixation; impasse; restructuring; gestalt; special process; hemispheric differences; anterior cingulate cortex; superior temporal gyrus

Article.  12479 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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