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Abstract

Insightful problem-solving is a well-studied behavior, but one that is not necessarily well-understood. There is a common sense of what insight is, typically relayed through stories like Isaac Newton getting bopped on the head with a falling apple or Archimedes jumping out his bathtub with a shout of “Eureka!” But the current understanding of how we solve problems through insight has several shortcomings. In this dissertation, I use a series of measures to both determine the cognitive underpinnings of insightful thinking and to extend current understanding of insightful thinking to perceptual processes. In the first set of studies, I examine whether insight is better thought of as a single ability or as an emergent property based on a collection of cognitive processes. In the second and third sets of studies, I put forth a novel visuoperceptual task and audio-perceptual task respectively, as possible measures for insight at a perceptual level. In the fourth set of studies, I ask whether we can identify an autonomic component of insightful problem solving by way of the manipulation of emotional valence. In the final set of studies, I examine the role of insight priming in the context of sleep-dependent memory consolidation processes. Together, these studies better inform our current understanding of insightful problem-solving by expanding it to include perceptual processing and deepen the understanding of cognitive processes that underlie this way of thinking.

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