Working Memory Facilitates Insight Instead of Hindering It: Comment on DeCaro, Van Stockum, and Wieth (2016)

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Abstract

The “nothing-special” account of insight predicts positive correlations of insight problem solving and working memory capacity (WMC), whereas the “special-process” account expects no, or even negative, correlations. In the latter vein, DeCaro, Van Stockum Jr., and Wieth (2016) have recently reported weak negative WMC correlations with 2 constraint relaxation matchstick problems and 3 insight problems, and thus they claim that WM hinders insight. Here, we report on 3 studies that investigated WMC and various matchstick and classical problems (including 1 study that precisely replicated DeCaro et al.’s procedure). All 3 studies yielded moderate positive correlations of WMC with both the constraint relaxation and the classical problems. WMC explained 10% variance in problem solving, no matter what problems were used or how they were applied. Thus, DeCaro et al.’s claim that WM hinders insight is unwarranted. The opposite is true: WM facilitates insight.

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