“Learning from Insight – Disentangling Cognitive and Affective Components of the Insight Memory Advantage” (Principal Investigator), funded by the DFG (German Research Foundation)
I am currently investigating the mechanisms behind the insight memory advantage. Why are insightful solutions remembered better than solutions for which problem solvers do not report insight?
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 have developed a special task domain to investigate insight: Magic tricks. We ask our participants to watch short video clips of magic tricks and try to discover the magician’s secret method. Naturally, this is quite a challenging task – but if participants manage to see through the trick, they report strong insight experiences. Watch an example trick on YouTube.
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.
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.
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.