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Schönauer, Monika; Brodt, Svenja; Pöhlchen, Dorothee; Bressmer, Anja; Danek, Amory H. and Gais, Steffen (2018): Sleep Does Not Promote Solving Classical Insight Problems and Magic Tricks. In: Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Vol. 12, 72 [PDF, 783kB]


During creative problem solving, initial solution attempts often fail because of self-imposed constraints that prevent us from thinking out of the box. In order to solve a problem successfully, the problem representation has to be restructured by combining elements of available knowledge in novel and creative ways. It has been suggested that sleep supports the reorganization of memory representations, ultimately aiding problem solving. In this study, we systematically tested the effect of sleep and time on problem solving, using classical insight tasks and magic tricks. Solving these tasks explicitly requires a restructuring of the problem representation and may be accompanied by a subjective feeling of insight. In two sessions, 77 participants had to solve classical insight problems and magic tricks. The two sessions either occurred consecutively or were spaced 3 h apart, with the time in between spent either sleeping or awake. We found that sleep affected neither general solution rates nor the number of solutions accompanied by sudden subjective insight. Our study thus adds to accumulating evidence that sleep does not provide an environment that facilitates the qualitative restructuring of memory representations and enables problem solving.

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