This paper provides a critical examination of the current state and future possibility of formal cognitive theory for insight problem solving and its associated “aha!” experience. Insight problems are contrasted with move problems, which have been formally defined and studied extensively by cognitive psychologists since the pioneering work of Alan Newell and Herbert Simon. To facilitate our discussion, a number of classical brainteasers are presented along with their solutions and some conclusions derived from observing the behavior of many students trying to solve them. Some of these problems are interesting in their own right, and many of them have not been discussed before in the psychological literature. The main purpose of presenting the brainteasers is to assist in discussing the status of formal cognitive theory for insight problem solving, which is argued to be considerably weaker than that found in other areas of higher cognition such as human memory, decision-making, categorization, and perception. We discuss theoretical barriers that have plagued the development of successful formal theory for insight problem solving. A few suggestions are made that might serve to advance the field.
Batchelder, William H. and Alexander, Gregory E.
"Insight Problem Solving: A Critical Examination of the Possibility of Formal Theory,"
The Journal of Problem Solving:
1, Article 6.