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Zander, Thea; Öllinger, Michael and Volz, Kirsten G. (2016): Intuition and Insight: Two Processes That Build on Each Other or Fundamentally Differ? In: Frontiers in Psychology, Vol. 7, 1395 [PDF, 328kB]


Intuition and insight are intriguing phenomena of non-analytical mental functioning: whereas intuition denotes ideas that have been reached by sensing the solution without any explicit representation of it, insight has been understood as the sudden and unexpected apprehension of the solution by recombining the single elements of a problem. By face validity, the two processes appear similar;according to a lay perspective, it is assumed that intuition precedes insight. Yet, predominant scientific conceptualizations of intuition and insight consider the two processes to differ with regard to their (dis-)continuous unfolding. That is, intuition has been understood as an experience-based and gradual process, whereas insight is regarded as a genuinely discontinuous phenomenon. Unfortunately, both processes have been investigated differently and without much reference to each other. In this contribution, we therefore set out to fill this lacuna by examining the conceptualizations of the assumed underlying cognitive processes of both phenomena, and by also referring to the research traditions and paradigms of the respective field. Based on early work put forward by Bowers et al. (1990, 1995), we referred to semantic coherence tasks consisting of convergent word triads (i.e., the solution has the same meaning to all three clue words) and/or divergent word triads (i.e., the solution means something different with respect to each clue word) as an excellent kind of paradigm that may be used in the future to disentangle intuition and insight experimentally. By scrutinizing the underlying mechanisms of intuition and insight, with this theoretical contribution, we hope to launch lacking but needed experimental studies and to initiate scientific cooperation between the research fields of intuition and insight that are currently still separated from each other.

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