Previous studies found that performance on the remote associates test (RAT) improves after a period of incubation and that increased alpha brain waves over the right posterior brain predict the emergence of RAT insight solutions. We report an experiment that tested whether increased alpha brain waves during incubation improve RAT performance. Participants received two blocks of RAT items (RAT1 and RAT2), with the second block consisting of items that were not solved during the first block. Participants were randomly assigned to three groups, which were matched for their number of RAT1 solutions. Participants in an alpha-up neurofeedback group aimed to increase their alpha brain waves over the right posterior brain in between the two blocks, whereas participants in an alpha-down neurofeedback group aimed to decrease these same brain waves. A third group of participants did not perform neurofeedback and proceeded immediately from the first to the second block of RAT items. We found evidence for more RAT2 solutions in participants who interrupted their RAT performance with neurofeedback, especially in ones who showed high alpha brain waves during neurofeedback. These results are consistent with the notion that an alert but relaxed mental state, indexed by alpha brain waves, may aid the read out of an implicitly activated memory network of weak associates.
Haarmann, Henk J.; George, Timothy; Smaliy, Alexei; and Dien, Joseph
"Remote Associates Test and Alpha Brain Waves,"
The Journal of Problem Solving:
2, Article 5.