The right hemisphere maintains solution-related activation for yet-to-be-solved problems

M. J. Beeman, E. M. Bowden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


In five experiments, we examined the time course of hemispheric differences in solution activation for insight-like problems. We propose that solving insight problems requires retrieval of unusual interpretations of problem elements, and that right-hemisphere (RH) coarse semantic coding is more likely than left-hemisphere (LH) fine semantic coding to maintain semantic activation of such interpretations. In four experiments, participants attempted word problems for 7 sec (Experiments 1A and 1B) or 2 sec (Experiments 2A and 2B), and 750 msec later responded to lateralized target words. After 7 sec of solving effort. Experiment 1A participants showed greater solution-related priming (i.e., they named solutions faster than unrelated words) for left visual field-RH (lvf-RH) targets than for right visual field-LH (rvf-LH) targets, and Experiment 1B participants made faster solution decisions on target words presented to the RH, as previously demonstrated following 15 sec of effort. After 2 sec of solving effort in Experiment 2A, women showed symmetric solution-related priming, although men showed a slight lvf-RH advantage in priming; and in Experiment 2B participants made equally quick solution decisions for targets presented to the LH and to the RH. In Experiment 3, participants viewed the problems for 1,250 msec then named lateralized target words; they showed symmetric solution-related priming. These experiments demonstrate solution activation initially in both hemispheres, but maintained solution activation only in the RH.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1231-1241
Number of pages11
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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