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Chapter 10

PSYC 213 Chapter Notes - Chapter 10: Shuar People, Stapler, Lawn Mower

Course Code
PSYC 213
Jelena Ristic

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Cognitive Psych
10.1 Insight Problems and the Gestalt Theory of Thinking
Gestalt: Form or configuration.
o Consciousness doesn’t consist of one event after another but tends to be organized into
a coherent whole, or Gestalt.
Gestalt switch: A sudden change in the way info is organized.
o Can occur in response to verbal material.
Insight problem: A problem that requires a restructuring of the way in which it is represented
before it can be solved.
o Doesn’t require any additional info.
10.1.1 Kohler and the Mentality of Apes
Kohler studied the process of problem-solving in chimpanzees.
o One chimpanzee was in a cage with fruit outside of the cage and beyond his reach.
There was a small stick inside the cage, and a longer stick outside.
He tried to use the short stick to get the fruit but was unsuccessful.
Insight came to the chimpanzee once he laid his eyes on the long stick he got
it and used it to get the fruit.
o Insight to Kohler is the ability to understand the way in which the parts of a situation are
related to one another.
It occurs spontaneously and suddenly. All-or-none = the chimpanzee either saw
the solution or he didn’t.
10.1.2 Wertheimer and Productive Thinking
Productive Thinking: Thinking that occurs as a result of having a grasp of the general principles
that apply in the particular situation in which you find yourself.
Structurally blind thinking: The tendency to reproduce thinking appropriate for other situations,
but not for the current situation.
The tendency to apply previous learning blindly can sometimes lead you to get the right answer
without understanding WHY it is right.
10.1.3 Duncker and Functional Fixedness
Analysis of the situation: Determining what functions the objects in the situation have and how
they can be used to solve the problem.
Functionally fixed: Being unable to see that a particular object could perform the function
needed to solve a problem; also, the tendency for people to think about objects based on the
function for which they were designed.

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10.1.4 Maier and the Concept of Direction
Maier’s 9 dot problem (left) and solution (right): Connect all the dots with 4 lines without lifting
the pen off the paper.
o The solution requires you to think outside of the box draw lines outside the area of
the square.
o We get fixated by the unnecessary assumption that we can only draw lines within the
o Hint: A hint must be consistent with the direction that the person’s thinking is taking,
and cannot be useful unless it responds to a difficulty that the person has already
That’s why some participants couldn’t solve the problem even after they got a
Maier’s 2-string problem: you need to tie the 2 strings together but they are too far apart to be
held at the same time. Solution: swing one of them.
o The hint given was when Maier brushed past one of the strings, setting it swinging.
o The solution suddenly appeared and participants were not likely to attribute the
solution to the hint = the insightful experience can mask the hint that gave rise to it.
10.1.5 - Insight Is Involuntary
One characteristic of insight problems: the solution appears suddenly.
Problems solved without insight are solved gradually.

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o Can tell that you are getting closer to the solution = getting warm.
Feeling of warmth: The feeling people might have as they approach the solution to a problem.
o This occurs because non-insight problems are solved step by step.
o For insight problems, warmth levels stay roughly the same until the solution is reached.
o Non-insight problems: feeling of warmth rises gradually.
Feeling of knowing: The feeling a person has about being able to solve a particular problem.
o Non-insight problem accurate prediction about ability to solve the problem.
o Insight problem inaccurate prediction.
These 2 feelings are examples of metacognition (how accurately you can assess your own cognitive
10.2 Current Approaches to Insight Problems
10.2.1 Progress Monitoring Theory
Progress monitoring theory: Participants monitor their progress on a problem, and when they
reach an impasse (not knowing what the solution is) then they are open to an insightful solution.
o Participants try the most straight-forward route to a solution fail consider
alternative routes = open to an insightful solution.
Study done with the 9-dot problem.
o One group was given a line connection 3 dots horizontally and extending out of the
square’s area.
o Another group was given a diagonal line that did NOT extend out of the square.
This hint was more helpful than the first one!
Why? It lead participants to reach the impasse more quickly:
Given the diagonal line they can more easily see that if they follow a
strategy connecting the most dots possible with each line, then they will
be out of moves before reaching the solution.
This realization prompts the participant to consider alternative
10.2.2 Representational Change Theory
Representational change theory: Insight requires a change in the way the participant represents
the problem.
There are two processes central to the achieving of representational change:
o 1) Constraint relaxation: An aspect of representational change theory: the removal of
assumptions that are blocking problem solution.
o 2) Chunk decomposition: An aspect of representational change theory: parts of the
problem are seen as belonging together; ‘chunks’ are separated and thought about
10.2.3 Insight and the Brain
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