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PSY370 LEC 05.docx

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John Vervaeke

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LEC 05 October 10th
Kaplan & Simon: also talk about memory indexing (information is store in memory in an organized
manner) Weisberg & Alba had the same notion (compartmentalization).
With this in mind, let’s look at the phenomena of incubation if people leave the problem alone and go
away and they will get the insight they need when they focus on something else (Sheldon Cooper)
The assumption: the unconscious is doing important work on the problem
It’s related to memory indexing because of the issue of transfer when encountering a problem we
store it in memory in a way that it will aptly transfer to new problems we encounter
More current term: predictive encoding encode information in a way that will predict/transfer
well to future (anticipatory aspect to memory storage)
Incubation adds an extra dimension: at the folk psychology level there is the assumption
that the unconscious is playing a part in this predictive encoding that facilitates the transfer
of information
Seiford et al. the prepared mind perspective vs. alternatives
1. Business as usual perspective: insight is unimportant or inexistent (Kaplan & Simon; Weisberg &
2. Wizard Merlin perspective: (confluence of Romantic tradition and gestalt tradition within insight
problem solving) insight occurs and its results are awesomely spectacular, results are produced by
superhuman and strange powers that are unpredictable; the Romantic tradition also claims that
insight is beyond scientific study (gestaltists don’t agree)
Looked at Feynman (genius), who would do a bit of theatre and reach insight though recently
we discovered lots of notes where it indicated that he didn’t solve the problem in a spontaneous
manner like Seiford thought
Prepared mind relates to incubation things pass out of consciousness
Incubation go back to the 1926, Wallis’s book The Art of Thought there are 4 phases in
problem solving
1. Mental preparation: confronting a problem, creating representation, formulation of problem &
unsuccessful attempts to solve the problem
2. Incubation: putting the problem aside and working on other things (haven’t disconnected
completely from the problem)
3. Illumination: flash of insight unexpectedly during incubation phase
4. Verification: working out the details of solution or determining if the solution works
People used to look into the link between 2 & 3, but then people questioned the existence of incubation
and looked at the connection between 1&2.
Seiford et al.: Why does transfer often fail? Because people fail to retrieve the solution or people use
past information wrongly. Thus mental preparation must take place in such a way that addresses the
problem of transfer and seek to remedy the problem
They understand transfer failure as fixation
During incubation: there are 4 main hypotheses about what is going on (the first one is really trying to
dissolve accounts of incubation)
1. Conscious work hypothesis: people are lying, they are not really incubating
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