Behavioral and neuroimaging findings indicate that distinct cognitive and neural processes underlie solving problems with sudden insight. Moreover, people with less focused attention sometimes perform better on tests of insight and creative problem solving. However, it remains unclear whether different states of attention, within individuals, influence the likelihood of solving problems with insight or with analysis. In this experiment, participants (N = 40) performed a baseline block of verbal problems, then performed one of two visual tasks, each emphasizing a distinct aspect of visual attention, followed by a second block of verbal problems to assess change in performance. After participants engaged in a center-focused flanker task requiring relatively focused visual attention, they reported solving more verbal problems with analytic processing. In contrast, after participants engaged in a rapid object identification task requiring attention to broad space and weak associations, they reported solving more verbal problems with insight. These results suggest that general attention mechanisms influence both visual attention task performance and verbal problem solving.
Wegbreit, Ezra; Suzuki, Satoru; Grabowecky, Marcia; Kounios, John; and Beeman, Mark
"Visual Attention Modulates Insight Versus Analytic Solving of Verbal Problems,"
The Journal of Problem Solving:
2, Article 6.