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Dynamics and Constraints in Insight Problem Solving.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Associated organisational unit

Journal publication date1/01/2002
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Number of pages9
Original languageEnglish


This article reports 2 experiments that investigated performance on a novel insight problem, the 8-coin problem. The authors hypothesized that participants would make certain initial moves (strategic moves) that seemed to make progress according to the problem instructions but that nonetheless would guarantee failure to solve the problem. Experiment 1 manipulated the starting state of the problem and showed that overall solution rates were lower when such strategic moves were available. Experiment 2 showed that failure to capitalize on visual hints about the correct first move was also associated with the availability of strategic moves. The results are interpreted in terms of an information-processing framework previously applied to the 9-dot problem. The authors argue that in addition to the operation of inappropriate constraints, a full account of insight problem solving must incorporate a dynamic that steers solution-seeking activity toward the constraints.

Bibliographic note

Ormerod was lead author, designed and executed both experiments and wrote first draft of manuscript. Final draft and data analysis shared with second author. Research was presented by Ormerod as invited speaker at NSF workshop on Expertise and Innovation, Arlington, VA, USA in 2006. RAE_import_type : Journal article RAE_uoa_type : Psychology