Cognitive tasks and abilities

Lebed A. A., Korovkin S. Y.(2017). The unconscious nature of insight: A dual-task paradigm investigation. Psychology in Russia: State of the Art, 10 (3), 107-119.



Background. Insight is a specific part of the thinking process during creative problem solving. The experience of a sudden unexpected solution of the problem makes it distinct from other problem solving. Though the insight problem solving process is hidden from the observer and the solver himself, it is possible to study working memory changes during the problem-solving process in order to observe the tracks of insight.

Objective. A critical experiment was carried out to determine whether it is legitimate to measure insight-problem-solving dynamics within a dual-task paradigm and working memory model. Also a verification was conducted of the hypothesis of whether insight problem solving competes for cognitive resources with unconscious processes.

Design. We designed a special procedure based on Kahneman’s (1973) modified dual-task paradigm, allowing simultaneous performance of the problem-solving process and probe tasks of different types. The reaction time was measured for the probe task. ere were two problems conditions (insight and regular), and two probe tasks conditions (implicit and explicit). Participants: 32 participants, aged from 18 to 32 years (M = 19.81; σ = 2.51).

Results. Significant differences in implicit probe reaction time were found between the dual-task condition (implicit categorization and insight problem solving) and solo implicit probe condition (t(15) = –3.21, p = .006, d = –.76). A joint effect of problem type and probe type was found (F(1, 60)= 4.85, p = .035, ηp2 = .07).

Conclusion. The results support the idea that information processing of conscious and of unconscious processes are separate. Unconscious processing capacity is limited. Implicit skill seems to be operated by the same mechanisms as insight problem solving, therefore competing for a common resource. It was also shown that such hidden creative unconscious processes as insight can be tracked via working memory load. 

About the authors: Lebed Anton A.; Korovkin Sergei Y.

Received: 05.15.2015

Accepted: 06.06.2016

Themes: Cognitive psychology


Pages: 107-119

DOI: 10.11621/pir.2017.0307

Keywords: insight, thinking, dual-task, implicit learning, working memory, problem solving

Back to the list