Tracing Cognitive Processes in Insight Problem Solving: Using GAMs and Change Point Analysis to Uncover Restructuring

Mario Graf*, Amory H. Danek, Nemanja Vaci, Merim Bilalic

*Corresponding author for this work

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Insight problems are likely to trigger an initial, incorrect mental representation, which needs to be restructured in order to find the solution. Despite the widespread theoretical assumption that this restructuring process happens suddenly, leading to the typical “Aha!” experience, the evidence is inconclusive. Among the reasons for this lack of clarity is that many measures of insight rely solely on the solvers’ subjective experience of the solution process. In our previous paper, we used matchstick arithmetic problems to demonstrate that it is possible to objectively trace problem-solving processes by combining eye movements with new analytical and statistical approaches. Specifically, we divided the problem-solving process into ten (relative) temporal phases to better capture possible small changes in problem representation. Here, we go a step further to demonstrate that classical statistical procedures, such as ANOVA, cannot capture sudden representational change processes, which are typical for insight problems. Only nonlinear statistical models, such as generalized additive (mixed) models (GAMs) and change points analysis, correctly identified the abrupt representational change. Additionally, we demonstrate that explicit hints reorient participants’ focus in a qualitatively different manner, changing the dynamics of restructuring in insight problem solving. While insight problems may indeed require a sudden restructuring of the initial mental representation, more sophisticated analytical and statistical approaches are necessary to uncover their true nature.
Original languageEnglish
Article number86
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Intelligence
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2023

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