The Aha! Moment: The cognitive neuroscience of insight

John Kounios*, Mark Beeman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

196 Scopus citations

Abstract

A sudden comprehension that solves a problem, reinterprets a situation, explains a joke, or resolves an ambiguous percept is called an insight (i.e., the "Aha! moment"). Psychologists have studied insight using behavioral methods for nearly a century. Recently, the tools of cognitive neuroscience have been applied to this phenomenon. A series of studies have used electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the neural correlates of the "Aha! moment" and its antecedents. Although the experience of insight is sudden and can seem disconnected from the immediately preceding thought, these studies show that insight is the culmination of a series of brain states and processes operating at different time scales. Elucidation of these precursors suggests interventional opportunities for the facilitation of insight.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)210-216
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Volume18
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2009

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Keywords

  • Aha! moment
  • Creativity
  • EEG
  • FMRI
  • Insight
  • Neuroimaging
  • Problem solving

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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