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18-08-2015 | Original Article | Uitgave 6/2016 Open Access

Psychological Research 6/2016

Generation and the subjective feeling of “aha!” are independently related to learning from insight

Psychological Research > Uitgave 6/2016
Jasmin M. Kizilirmak, Joana Galvao Gomes da Silva, Fatma Imamoglu, Alan Richardson-Klavehn


It has been proposed that sudden insight into the solutions of problems can enhance long-term memory for those solutions. However, the nature of insight has been operationalized differently across studies. Here, we examined two main aspects of insight problem-solving—the generation of a solution and the subjective “aha!” experience—and experimentally evaluated their respective relationships to long-term memory formation (encoding). Our results suggest that generation (generated solution vs. presented solution) and the “aha!” experience (“aha!” vs. no “aha!”) are independently related to learning from insight, as well as to the emotional response towards understanding the solution during encoding. Moreover, we analyzed the relationship between generation and the “aha!” experience and two different kinds of later memory tests, direct (intentional) and indirect (incidental). Here, we found that the generation effect was larger for indirect testing, reflecting more automatic retrieval processes, while the relationship with the occurrence of an “aha!” experience was somewhat larger for direct testing. Our results suggest that both the generation of a solution and the subjective experience of “aha!” indicate processes that benefit long-term memory formation, though differently. This beneficial effect is possibly due to the intrinsic reward associated with sudden comprehension and the detection of schema-consistency, i.e., that novel information can be easily integrated into existing knowledge.

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