The Relationship Between Working Memory and Insight Depends on Moderators: Reply to Chuderski and Jastrzêbski (2017)

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Chuderski and Jastrzêbski (2017) found a positive relationship between working memory capacity and insight problem solving, and concluded that “people with less effective cognition” are therefore “less creative” (p. 2003). This interpretation discounts substantial evidence that devoting less executive control facilitates insight. We develop an initial framework for understanding these contradictory findings. We describe (a) how both working memory-demanding processes and less-demanding associative processes impact insight and (b) how individual, situational, and task-specific factors interact to influence whether greater working memory is a help or a hindrance. We propose that insight will be supported if the level of executive control used matches the level of control optimal for different phases of insight problem solving. We use this framework to explain why Chuderski and Jastrzębski’s (2017) findings may have differed from DeCaro, Van Stockum, and Wieth (2016), and offer direction for a more unified account of insight problem solving.

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