Insight problem solving

The phenomenon of insight remains one of the great mysteries of cognition. After a long period of time spent brooding over a difficult problem, the answer pops into your mind suddenly and unexpectedly, often when you are not even consciously thinking about the problem. This so-called „Aha! experience“ is crucial for problem solving, creativity and innovation.
We use magic tricks as a tool to investigate insight. Problem solvers are presented with short video clips of magic tricks and try to discover the magician’s secret method. Naturally, this is quite a challenging task – but it can trigger strong Aha! experiences.


Watch this trick

Learning from insight

I am trying to clarify the mechanism behind the insight memory advantage. Why are insightful solutions remembered better than solutions for which problem solvers do not report insight? What is the unique contribution of cognitive and affective components, respectively?

Read a paper on the insight memory advantage


Expectation violations

Over time, people form an implicit belief system about what is possible in the world around us. They expect certain outcomes from their actions (e.g. if I smash an egg to the ground, it will break). Magic tricks violate these expected causal relationships. We try to identify brain regions that are crucial for expectation violations by combining behavioural and neuroimaging experiments. Read a related paper here


Analytical problem solving with Tower of London / Tower of Hanoi

These classical puzzles are widely used to assess planning and problem solving abilities. In studies involving patients with chronic brain lesions, their problem solving behaviour is compared to that of healthy controls. Differences can be found with regard to general performance, but also in the use of problem solving strategies.

Tower of London (Shallice, 1982)

The original Tower of London (Shallice, 1982)


Action understanding

For humans as social beings, it is crucial to understand the actions of others. I have developed a new, non-verbal test to assess this ability: The Tomato & Tuna Test. We could show that this test reveals subtle deficits in brain-damaged patients. The test is easy to administer and all stimuli are freely provided here.