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Öllinger, Michael; Müller, Albrecht von (2017): Search and Coherence-Building in Intuition and Insight Problem Solving. In: Frontiers in Psychology, Vol. 8, 827


Coherence-building is a key concept for a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms of intuition and insight problem solving. There are several accounts that address certain aspects of coherence-building. However, there is still no proper framework defining the general principles of coherence-building. We propose a four-stage model of coherence-building. The first stage starts with spreading activation restricted by constraints. This dynamic is a well-defined rule based process. The second stage is characterized by detecting a coherent state. We adopted a fluency account assuming that the ease of information processing indicates the realization of a coherent state. The third stage is designated to evaluate the result of the coherence-building process and assess whether the given problem is solved or not. If the coherent state does not fit the requirements of the task, the process re-enters at stage 1. These three stages characterize intuition. For insight problem solving a fourth stage is necessary, which restructures the given representation after repeated failure, so that a new search space results. The new search space enables new coherent states. We provide a review of the most important findings, outline our model, present a large number of examples, deduce potential new paradigms and measures that might help to decipher the underlying cognitive processes.