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Insight is the understanding of a specific cause and effect within a specific context. The term insight can have several related meanings:

Causality is efficacy, by which one process or state, a cause, contributes to the production of another process or state, an effect, where the cause is partly responsible for the effect, and the effect is partly dependent on the cause. In general, a process has many causes, which are also said to be causal factors for it, and all lie in its past. An effect can in turn be a cause of, or causal factor for, many other effects, which all lie in its future. Some writers have held that causality is metaphysically prior to notions of time and space.


Introspection is the examination of one's own conscious thoughts and feelings. In psychology, the process of introspection relies exclusively on observation of one's mental state, while in a spiritual context it may refer to the examination of one's soul. Introspection is closely related to human self-reflection and is contrasted with external observation.

Deductive reasoning, also deductive logic, is the process of reasoning from one or more statements (premises) to reach a logically certain conclusion.

Discernment is the ability to obtain sharp perceptions or to judge well. In the case of judgment, discernment can be psychological or moral in nature. Within judgment, discernment involves going past the mere perception of something and making nuanced judgments about its properties or qualities. Considered as a virtue, a discerning individual is considered to possess wisdom, and be of good judgement; especially so with regard to subject matter often overlooked by others.

An insight that manifests itself suddenly, such as understanding how to solve a difficult problem, is sometimes called by the German word Aha-Erlebnis . The term was coined by the German psychologist and theoretical linguist Karl Bühler. It is also known as an epiphany, eureka moment or (for cross word solvers) the penny dropping moment (PDM). [1] Sudden sickening realisations identifying a problem rather than solving it, so Uh-oh rather than Aha moments are further seen in negative insight. [2] A further example of negative insight is chagrin which is annoyance at the obviousness of a solution missed up until the point of insight, [3] an example of this being the Homer Simpson's D'oh!

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol in Italy, the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Eureka effect

The eureka effect refers to the common human experience of suddenly understanding a previously incomprehensible problem or concept. Some research describes the Aha! effect as a memory advantage, but conflicting results exist as to where exactly it occurs in the brain, and it is difficult to predict under what circumstances one can predict an Aha! moment.

Karl Bühler German psychologist

Karl Ludwig Bühler was a German psychologist and linguist. In psychology he is known for his work in gestalt psychology, and he was one of the founders of the Würzburg School of psychology. In linguistics he is known for his organon model of communication and his treatment of deixis as a linguistic phenomenon. He was the dissertation advisor of Karl Popper.


Representation of the Duncker Candle Problem. Duncker Candle Problem, DLW.png
Representation of the Duncker Candle Problem.

In psychology, insight occurs when a solution to a problem presents itself quickly and without warning. [5] It is the sudden discovery of the correct solution following incorrect attempts based on trial and error. [6] [7] Solutions via Insight have been proven to be more accurate than non-insight solutions. [6]

Insight was first studied by Gestalt Psychology, in the early part of the 20th century, during the search for an alternative to associationism and the associationistic view of learning. [8] Some proposed potential mechanisms for insight include: suddenly seeing the problem in a new way, connecting the problem to another relevant problem/solution pair, releasing past experiences that are blocking the solution, or seeing problem in a larger, coherent context. [8]

Gestalt psychology or gestaltism is a German term interpreted in psychology as "pattern" or "configuration". It is a school of psychology created by Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Köhler, and Kurt Koffka. The school emerged in Austria and Germany in the early twentieth century. Gestalt psychology was formed after Wertheimer's discovery between 1910 and 1912 of the phi phenomenon which focused on the illusion of motion. The approach was based on a macroscopic view of the psychological behaviors rather than a microscopic approach.

Associationism is the idea that mental processes operate by the association of one mental state with its successor states. It holds that all mental processes are made up of discrete psychological elements and their combinations, which are believed to be made up of sensations or simple feelings. In philosophy, this idea is viewed as the outcome of empiricism and sensationism. The concept encompasses a psychological theory as well as comprehensive philosophical foundation, and scientific methodology.

Classic methods

Solution to the Nine Dot problem. Nine Dot Problem, DLW.png
Solution to the Nine Dot problem.

Generally, methodological approaches to the study of insight in the laboratory involve presenting participants with problems and puzzles that cannot be solved in a conventional or logical manner. [8] Problems of insight commonly fall into three types. [8]

Breaking functional fixedness

Example of an RAT problem. RAT problem, DLW.png
Example of an RAT problem.

The first type of problem forces participants to use objects in a way they are not accustomed to (thus, breaking their functional fixedness), like the "Duncker candle problem". [8] In the "Duncker candle problem", individuals are given matches and a box of tacks and asked to find a way to attach a candle to the wall to light the room. [4] The solution requires the participants to empty the box of tacks, set the candle inside the box, tack the box to the wall, and light the candle with the matches.

Spatial ability

The second type of insight problem requires spatial ability to solve, like the "Nine-dot Problem". [8] The famous "Nine-dot problem" requires participants to draw four lines, through nine dots, without picking their pencil up. [9] [ page needed ]

Using verbal ability

The third and final type of problem requires verbal ability to solve, like the Remote Associates Test (RAT). [8] In the RAT, individuals must think of a word that connects three, seemingly unrelated, words. [10] RAT are often used in experiments, because they can be solved both with and without insight. [11]

Specific results

Versus non-insight problems

Two clusters of problems, those solvable by insight and those not requiring insight to solve, have been observed. [12] An individual’s cognitive flexibility, fluency, and vocabulary ability are predictive of performance on insight problems, but not on non-insight problems. [12] In contrast, fluid intelligence is mildly predictive of performance on non-insight problems, but not on insight problems. [12] More recent research suggests that rather than insight versus search, that the subjective feeling of insight varies, with some solutions experienced with a stronger feeling of Aha than others. [13] [14]


People in a better mood are more likely to solve problems using insight. [15] Research demonstrated that self-reported positive affect of participants uniquely increased insight before and during the solving of a problem, [16] as indicated by differing brain activity patterns. [15] People experiencing anxiety showed the opposite effect, and solved fewer problems by insight. [15] Emotion can also be considered in terms of the insight experience and whether this is a positive Aha or negative Uh-oh moment. [2]


Using a geometric and spatial insight problem, it was found that providing participants with breaks improved their performance as compared to participants who did not receive a break. [17] However, the length of incubation between problems did not matter. Thus, participants' performance on insight problems improved just as much with a short break (4 minutes) as it did with a long break (12 minutes). [17]


Research has shown sleep to help produce insight. [18] Individuals were initially trained on insight problems. Following training, one group was tested on the insight problems after sleeping for eight hours at night, one group was tested after staying awake all night, and one group was tested after staying awake all day. Those that slept performed twice as well on the insight problems than those who stayed awake. [18]

In the brain

Differences in brain activation in the left and right hemisphere seem to be indicative of insight versus non-insight solutions. [19] Using RAT’s that were either presented to the left or right visual field, it was shown that participants having solved the problem with insight were more likely to have been shown the RAT on the left visual field, indicating right hemisphere processing. This provides evidence that the right hemisphere plays a unique role in insight. [19]

fMRI and EEG scans of participants completing RAT's demonstrated unique brain activity corresponding to problems solved by insight. [11] For one, there is high EEG activity in the alpha- and gamma-band about 300 milliseconds before participants indicated a solution to insight problems, but not to non-insight problems. [11] Additionally, problems solved by insight corresponded to increased activity in the temporal lobes and mid-frontal cortex, while more activity in the posterior cortex corresponded to non-insight problems. [11] The data suggests there is something different occurring in the brain when solving insight versus non-insight problems that happens right before the solving of the problem. This conclusion has been supported also by eye tracking data which shows an increased eye blink duration and frequency when people solve problems via Insight. This latter result, paired with an eye pattern oriented to look away from sources of visual inputs ( such as looking at blank wall, or out the window at the sky )proves different attention involvement in Insight problem solving vs problem solving via analysis. [20]

Group insight

It was found that groups typically perform better on insight problems (in the form of rebus puzzles with either helpful or unhelpful clues) than individuals. [21]

Example of a rebus puzzle. Answer: man overboard. RAT Problem, DLW.png
Example of a rebus puzzle. Answer: man overboard.

Additionally, while incubation improves insight performance for individuals, it improves insight performance for groups even more. [21] Thus, after a 15-minute break, individual performance improved for the rebus puzzles with unhelpful clues, and group performance improved for rebus puzzles with both unhelpful and helpful clues. [21]

Individual differences

Personality and gender, as they relate to performance on insight problems, was studied using a variety of insight problems. It was found that participants who ranked lower on emotionality and higher on openness to experience performed better on insight problems. Men outperformed women on insight problems, and women outperformed men on non-insight problems. [22]

Higher intelligence (higher IQ) has also been found to be associated with better performance on insight problems. However, those of lower intelligence benefit more than those of higher intelligence from being provided with cues and hints for insight problems. [8]

A recent large-scale study in Australia suggests that insight may not be universally experienced, with almost 20% of respondents reporting that they had not experienced insight. [23]


Individuals are poorer at predicting their own metacognition for insight problems, than for non-insight problems. [24] Individuals were asked to indicate how "hot" or "cold" to a solution they felt. Generally, they were able to predict this fairly well for non-insight problems, but not for insight problems. [24] This provides evidence for the suddenness involved during insight.

Naturalistic settings

Recently, insight was studied in a non-laboratory setting. [25] Accounts of insight that have been reported in the media, such as in interviews, etc., were examined and coded. It was found that insights that occur in the field are typically reported to be associated with a sudden "change in understanding" and with "seeing connections and contradictions" in the problem. [25] It was also found that insight in nature differed from insight in the laboratory. For example, insight in nature was often rather gradual, not sudden, and incubation was not as important. [25] Other studies used online questionnaires to further explore insight outside of the laboratory, [26] [2] verifying the notion that insight often happens in situations such as in the shower, [23] echoing the idea that creative ideas occur in situations where divergent thought is more likely, sometimes called the Three B's of Creativity, in Bed, on the Bus or in the Bath.

Non-Human Animals

Studies on primate cognition have provided evidence of what may be interpreted as insight in animals. In 1917, Wolfgang Köhler published his book The Mentality of Apes , having studied primates on the island of Tenerife for six years. In one of his experiments, apes were presented with an insight problem that required the use of objects in new and original ways, in order to win a prize (usually, some kind of food). He observed that the animals would continuously fail to get the food, and this process occurred for quite some time; however, rather suddenly, they would purposefully use the object in the way needed to get the food, as if the realization had occurred out of nowhere. He interpreted this behavior as something resembling insight in apes. [27] A more recent study suggested that elephants might also experience insight, showing that a young male elephant was able to identify and move a large cube under food that was out of reach so that he could stand on it to get the reward. [28]


There are a number of theories representing insight; at present, no one theory dominates interpretation. [8]

Dual-process theory

According to the dual-process theory, there are two systems used to solve problems. [22] The first involves logical and analytical thought processes based on reason, while the second involves intuitive and automatic processes based on experience. [22] Research has demonstrated that insight probably involves both processes; however, the second process is more influential. [22]

Three-process theory

According to the three-process theory, intelligence plays a large role in insight. [29] Specifically, insight involves three different processes (selective encoding, combination, and comparison), which require intelligence to apply to problems. [29] Selective encoding is the process of focusing attention on ideas relevant to a solution, while ignoring features that are irrelevant. [29] Selective combination is the process of combining the information previously deemed relevant. [29] Finally, selective comparison is the use of past experience with problems and solutions that are applicable to the current problem and solution. [29]

Four-stage model

According to the four-stage model of insight, there are four stages to problem solving. [30] First, the individual prepares to solve a problem. [30] Second, the individual incubates on the problem, which encompasses trial-and-error, etc. [30] Third, the insight occurs, and the solution is illuminated. [30] Finally, the verification of the solution to the problem is experienced. [30] Since this model was proposed, other similar models have been explored that contain two or three similar stages. [8]


In psychology and psychiatry, insight can mean the ability to recognize one's own mental illness. [31] [32] Psychiatric insight is typically measured with the Beck cognitive insight scale [33] This form of insight has multiple dimensions, such as recognizing the need for treatment, and recognizing consequences of one's behavior as stemming from an illness. [34] A person with very poor recognition or acknowledgment is referred to as having "poor insight" or "lack of insight". The most extreme form is anosognosia, the total absence of insight into one's own mental illness. Many mental illnesses are associated with varying levels of insight. For example, people with obsessive compulsive disorder and various phobias tend to have relatively good insight that they have a problem and that their thoughts and/or actions are unreasonable, yet are compelled to carry out the thoughts and actions regardless. [35] Patients with schizophrenia, and various psychotic conditions tend to have very poor awareness that anything is wrong with them. [36] Psychiatric insight favourably predicts outcomes in cognitive behavioural therapy for psychosis [37] . Today some psychiatrists recognize psychiatric medication may contribute to the patients lack of insight. [38] [39] [40]

"Insight" can also refer to other matters in psychology; problem solving behavior requiring insight is the subject of insight phenomenology.

An insight is the derivation of a rule which links cause with effect. The mind is a model of the universe built up from insights.

Thoughts of the mind fall into two categories:

  1. Analysis of past experience with the purpose of gaining insight for use within this model at a later date
  2. Simulations of future scenarios using existing insights in the mind model in order to predict outcomes

A mature mind has assimilated many insights and represents a sophisticated model of the universe. The mind-model might be inaccurate. When insight is not subordinate to a validation discipline like the 'scientific method', 'fallacious' thinking can result in a confused mind.

Intuition, which is often described in the popular literature as an alternative thought process, is merely another manifestation of insight. [41] In this process, multiple bits of seemingly unrelated data are linked together and a hypothesis or plan of action is generated. Usually this process is generated in a novel situation. Such a circumstance links data which had previously seemed unrelated. [42] The categories and analytical process, however, are not distinct from any other form of insight. The only difference is the degree of novelty of the stimulus.[ citation needed ]


The Pali word for "insight" is vipassana , which has been adopted as the name of a kind of Buddhist mindfulness meditation. Recent research indicates that mindfulness meditation does facilitate solving of insight problems with dosage of 20 minutes. [43]


Pat Conroy[ citation needed ] points out that an insight is a statement based on a deep understanding of your target consumers' attitudes and beliefs, which connect at an emotional level with your consumer, provoking a clear response (This brand understands me! That is exactly how I feel! even if they've never thought about it quite like that) which, when leveraged, has the power to change consumer behavior. Insights must effect a change in consumer behavior that benefits your brand, leading to the achievement of the marketing objective.[ citation needed ]

Insights can be based on:

  1. Real or perceived weakness to be exploited in competitive product performance or value
  2. Attitudinal or perceived barrier in the minds of consumers, regarding your brand
  3. Untapped or compelling belief or practice

Insights are most effective when they are/do one of the following:

  1. Unexpected
  2. Create a disequilibrium
  3. Change momentum
  4. Exploited via a benefit or point of difference that your brand can deliver

In order to be actionable, as the expression of a consumer truth, an insight as to be stated as an articulated sentence, containing: [44]

  1. An observation or a wish, e.g. "I would like to ...."
  2. A motivation explaining the wish, e.g. " because ..."
  3. A barrier preventing the consumer from being satisfied with the fulfillment of his/her motivation, e.g. " but..."

The gap between the second and the third term offers a tension, which constitutes a potential for a brand. Like there are concept writers for copies, there are insight writers.

In technical terminology of insight in market research is the understanding of local market by referring different source of information (such as quantitative research and qualitative research) proving for the consumers' insight.

See also

Related Research Articles

Psychology is the science of behavior and mind. Psychology includes the study of conscious and unconscious phenomena, as well as feeling and thought. It is an academic discipline of immense scope. Psychologists seek an understanding of the emergent properties of brains, and all the variety of phenomena linked to those emergent properties, joining this way the broader neuroscientific group of researchers. As a social science it aims to understand individuals and groups by establishing general principles and researching specific cases.

A cognitive bias is a systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment. Individuals create their own "subjective social reality" from their perception of the input. An individual's construction of social reality, not the objective input, may dictate their behaviour in the social world. Thus, cognitive biases may sometimes lead to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, illogical interpretation, or what is broadly called irrationality.

Group psychotherapy or group therapy is a form of psychotherapy in which one or more therapists treat a small group of clients together as a group. The term can legitimately refer to any form of psychotherapy when delivered in a group format, including cognitive behavioural therapy or interpersonal therapy, but it is usually applied to psychodynamic group therapy where the group context and group process is explicitly utilised as a mechanism of change by developing, exploring and examining interpersonal relationships within the group.

A heuristic technique, often called simply a heuristic, is any approach to problem solving or self-discovery that employs a practical method, not guaranteed to be optimal, perfect, or rational, but instead sufficient for reaching an immediate goal. Where finding an optimal solution is impossible or impractical, heuristic methods can be used to speed up the process of finding a satisfactory solution. Heuristics can be mental shortcuts that ease the cognitive load of making a decision. Examples that employ heuristics include using a rule of thumb, an educated guess, an intuitive judgment, a guesstimate, profiling, or common sense.

Cognition is "the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses". It encompasses many aspects of intellectual functions and processes such as attention, the formation of knowledge, memory and working memory, judgment and evaluation, reasoning and "computation", problem solving and decision making, comprehension and production of language. Cognitive processes use existing knowledge and generate new knowledge.

Creativity phenomenon whereby something new is created

Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed. The created item may be intangible or a physical object.

Empathy The capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing

Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another's position. Definitions of empathy encompass a broad range of emotional states. Types of empathy include cognitive empathy, emotional empathy, and somatic empathy.

Superior temporal gyrus Part of the brains temporal lobe

The superior temporal gyrus (STG) is one of three gyri in the temporal lobe of the human brain, which is located laterally to the head, situated somewhat above the external ear.

Problem solving consists of using generic or ad hoc methods in an orderly manner to find solutions to problems. Some of the problem-solving techniques developed and used in philosophy, artificial intelligence, computer science, engineering, mathematics, or medicine are related to mental problem-solving techniques studied in psychology.

Metacognition is "cognition about cognition", "thinking about thinking", "knowing about knowing", becoming "aware of one's awareness" and higher-order thinking skills. The term comes from the root word meta, meaning "beyond", or "on top of". Metacognition can take many forms; it includes knowledge about when and how to use particular strategies for learning or problem-solving. There are generally two components of metacognition: (1) knowledge about cognition and (2) regulation of cognition.

Depressive realism is the hypothesis developed by Lauren Alloy and Lyn Yvonne Abramson that depressed individuals make more realistic inferences than non-depressed individuals. Although depressed individuals are thought to have a negative cognitive bias that results in recurrent, negative automatic thoughts, maladaptive behaviors, and dysfunctional world beliefs, depressive realism argues not only that this negativity may reflect a more accurate appraisal of the world but also that non-depressed individuals' appraisals are positively biased. This theory remains very controversial, as it brings into question the theory underlying cognitive behavioral therapy, which posits that the depressed individual is negatively biased in their perceptions, with the goal of returning them to a more objective state. While some of the evidence currently supports the plausibility of depressive realism, its effect may be restricted to a select few situations.

In cognitive psychology, cognitive load refers to the used amount of working memory resources. Cognitive load theory differentiates cognitive load into three types: intrinsic, extraneous, and germane.

Social cognitive theory (SCT), used in psychology, education, and communication, holds that portions of an individual's knowledge acquisition can be directly related to observing others within the context of social interactions, experiences, and outside media influences. This theory was advanced by Albert Bandura as an extension of his social learning theory. The theory states that when people observe a model performing a behavior and the consequences of that behavior, they remember the sequence of events and use this information to guide subsequent behaviors. Observing a model can also prompt the viewer to engage in behavior they already learned. In other words, people do not learn new behaviors solely by trying them and either succeeding or failing, but rather, the survival of humanity is dependent upon the replication of the actions of others. Depending on whether people are rewarded or punished for their behavior and the outcome of the behavior, the observer may choose to replicate behavior modeled. Media provides models for a vast array of people in many different environmental settings.

Rumination (psychology)

Rumination is the focused attention on the symptoms of one's distress, and on its possible causes and consequences, as opposed to its solutions, according to the Response Styles Theory proposed by Nolen-Hoeksema (1998). Because the Response Styles Theory has been empirically supported, this model of rumination is the most widely used conceptualization. Other theories, however, have proposed different definitions for rumination. For example, in the Goal Progress Theory, rumination is conceptualized not as a reaction to a mood state, but as a "response to failure to progress satisfactorily towards a goal". As such, both rumination and worry are associated with anxiety and other negative emotional states; however, its measures have not been unified.

Implicit attitudes are evaluations that occur without conscious awareness towards an attitude object or the self. These evaluations are generally either favorable or unfavorable. They come about from various influences in the individual experience. The commonly used definition of implicit attitude within cognitive and social psychology comes from Anthony Greenwald and Mahzarin Banaji's template for definitions of terms related to implicit cognition : "Implicit attitudes are introspectively unidentified traces of past experience that mediate favorable or unfavorable feeling, thought, or action toward social objects". These thoughts, feelings or actions have an influence on behavior that the individual may not be aware of.

Procedural memory is a type of implicit memory and long-term memory which aids the performance of particular types of tasks without conscious awareness of these previous experiences.

Processing fluency is the ease with which information is processed. Perceptual fluency is the ease of processing stimuli based on manipulations to perceptual quality. Retrieval fluency is the ease with which information can be retrieved from memory.

Embodied cognition is the theory that many features of cognition, whether human or otherwise, are shaped by aspects of the entire body of the organism. The features of cognition include high level mental constructs and performance on various cognitive tasks. The aspects of the body include the motor system, the perceptual system, bodily interactions with the environment (situatedness) and the assumptions about the world that are built into the structure of the organism.

The Remote Associates Test (RAT) is a creativity test used to determine a human's creative potential. The test typically lasts forty minutes and consists of thirty to forty questions each of which consists of three common stimulus words that appear to be unrelated. The person being tested must think of a fourth word that is somehow related to each of the first three words. Scores are calculated based on the number of correct questions.


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Further reading