New approaches to demystifying insight

Edward M. Bowden*, Mark Jung-Beeman, Jessica Fleck, John Kounios

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

445 Scopus citations


After a person has become stuck on a problem, they sometimes achieve a clear and sudden solution through insight - the so-called Aha! experience. Because of its distinctive experience, the origins and characteristics of insight have received considerable attention historically in psychological research. However, despite considerable progress in characterizing insight, the underlying mechanisms remain mysterious. We argue that research on insight could be greatly advanced by supplementing traditional insight research, which depends on a few complex problems, with paradigms common in other domains of cognitive science. We describe a large set of mini-insight problems to which multiple methods can be applied, together with subjective reports to identify insight problem-solving. Behavioral priming and neuroimaging methods are providing evidence about what, where, and how neural activity occurs during insight. Such evidence constrains theories of component processes, and will help to demystify insight.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)322-328
Number of pages7
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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