Old Problems in New Contexts: The Context-Dependent Fixation Hypothesis

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Two experiments tested the context-dependent fixation hypothesis of incubation effects, that initially fixated problems can be resolved when problem-solvers are in new contexts not associated with fixated ideas. Both experiments associated misleading clues with initial problem-solving contexts, causing a fixation effect, and retested problems either in fixation contexts or in new contexts. Resolution of initially unsolved problems was greater after a delay (an incubation effect), and incubation was greater when retests of problems were in new contexts. The results are consistent with previous laboratory findings, and they help explain why many historic cases of sudden insight occurred outside of typical work contexts.

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