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Fedor, Anna; Szathmary, Eoers; Oellinger, Michael (2015): Problem solving stages in the five square problem. In: Frontiers in Psychology, Vol. 6, 1050
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Abstract

According to the restructuring hypothesis, insight problem solving typically progresses through consecutive stages of search, impasse, insight, and search again for someone, who solves the task. The order of these stages was determined through self-reports of problem solvers and has never been verified behaviorally. We asked whether individual analysis of problem solving attempts of participants revealed the same order of problem solving stages as defined by the theory and whether their subjective feelings corresponded to the problem solving stages they were in. Our participants tried to solve the Five-Square problem in an online task, while we recorded the time and trajectory of their stick movements. After the task they were asked about their feelings related to insight and some of them also had the possibility of reporting impasse while working on the task. We found that the majority of participants did not follow the classic four-stage model of insight, but had more complex sequences of problem solving stages, with search and impasse recurring several times. This means that the classic four-stage model is not sufficient to describe variability on the individual level. We revised the classic model and we provide a new model that can generate all sequences found. Solvers reported insight more often than non-solvers and non-solvers reported impasse more often than solvers, as expected;but participants did not report impasse more often during behaviorally defined impasse stages than during other stages. This shows that impasse reports might be unreliable indicators of impasse. Our study highlights the importance of individual analysis of problem solving behavior to verify insight theory.