Defining Insight: A Study Examining Implicit Theories of Insight Experience

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Abstract

Accounts of insight experiences have already been used to define insight or distinguish insight from noninsight; but the nature of the experience remains unclear. This research takes a quantitative approach to assessing the implicit conceptual structure of everyday insight experience in 2 studies. The aim of Study 1 was to collect descriptions of everyday insight experiences: participants were required to give as many brief descriptions as possible of experience of insight in diverse naturalistic settings. The participants provided a total of 99 categories of terms including 22 principal terms. In Study 2 the underlying structure of this set of terms was extracted through multidimensional scaling (MDS), and the 22 principal terms were further clustered. The results showed that the terms scattered in various dimensional positions and the 22 principal terms were grouped in 4 clusters. Together these 2 studies suggest that the experience of everyday insight is a multidimensional construct encompassing positive affect at the moment of insight; phenomenological experiences relating to the dynamic insight process, particularly the process of sudden restructuring; solution-related cognitive responses; and postinsight reflections. The main implications of the research are discussed.

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