Exploring feelings of insight – New #DARTseminar

On Monday 5th of November, PhD Candidate Margaret Webb, from the University of Melbourne, presented a research seminar entitled: Exploring the cognitive processes underlying, individual differences associated with, and methods used to investigate, feelings of insight.

The seminar was hosted by Prof Frédéric Vallée-Tourangeau from 1-2pm in room JG2004 (Penrhyn road campus, KT1 2EE).


As scientists, we are motivated by moments in which we feel we have a sudden insight into something novel and important. These moments can seem independent from our incremental science and are often accompanied by an exclamation, the so-called aha experience. Moments of insight have a profound effect on motivation, learning, and memory, and have long been investigated using so-called insight problems. However, the long history investigating accuracy in insight problem solving does not extend to measurements of feeling insightful. We examine whether the individual differences underlying problem solving extend to feelings of insight. We focus on measures of divergent and convergent thinking (respectively, the ability to produce diverse possibilities, and the ability to deduce the most fitting solution from a range) and on unusual experiences (a sub-scale of schizotypy which includes the tendency to perceive patterns in noise). Across five studies, we (1) explore the current methods of investigating individual differences underlying insight, (2) outline some pertinent issues regarding the assumptions and techniques in the current state of the art, and (3) apply our adapted methodologies. Ultimately, we found that intelligence and convergent thinking are important for achieving the solution of insight problems but that divergent thinking, particularly originality of thought, is more important for feeling insightful.

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