Secondly, I found that most of thereports and experiments on the effects of knowledge and experience on creativeinsight that I came across while researching this paper were inapplicableat a universal level. Research usually focused on novices orpeople working on novel problems, and as such could not really providemuch information on the effect of knowledge and experience on insight as awhole. Therefore, a generalisation of the results beyond novices cannot beapplied because of the focus placed specifically on novice creative insights. A focus should rather be placed on looking at creative insights of novicesversus experts in certain fields to further understand the effectof knowledge and experience on insight.
To demonstrate this, consider the unspillablecup problem. (Jansson & Smith, 1991) In the experiment, students were asked todesign an unspillable coffee cup without using a straw. One group of studentswere shown a design of an unspillable cup with a straw, and another group werenot shown anything. The students who were shown the design, ended up finding itmore difficult to create a design compare to the control group; a significantamount of students presented designs with a straw even though they werespecifically told not to do so. This could be an example of how the informationthey were given – the design with the straw – limited them, hence, showing thatsome sort of knowledge can hinder creative insight. However, it cannot bedenied that in order for creative insight to occur in the first place, one musthave some sort of knowledge on the subject at hand.
Furthermore, if one hasmore experience in the field at hand, it is more possible for one to overcomethe restraint certain information can have. For example, an expert engineerwould be able to solve the cup problem despite the limits because of theirexpertise in the field. However, in this case, one cannot be sure creativeinsight is taking place, as this might not be a new idea for experts. The candle stick problem (Duncker,1945) also gives rise to similar criticisms. In this experiment, participantswere asked to attach a candle to a wall with only a matchbox with matches and acandle. The results showed that when subjects were shown the matches outsidethe matchbox, they were more likely to solve the problem than subjects thatwere shown the matchbox with the matches inside.
This indicates that theinformation (of the matchbox not serving its original function) helpsrestructure the problem in a way where the solution can be more easily reached.It suggests that our experience has accustomed us to think of the function ofthe matchbox to be a container rather than a support or holder. Perhaps if wehad not known its function, we would have reached insight easier.
However, likethe cup problem, we can only assume this through studying the results of theexperiment as it uses novices to perform novice tasks. It also does not addressthe possibility of domain- specific creativity, where for example, craft-oriented people might be more imaginative with the materials because of theirexperience in that field. There are also theories that suggestthat the knowledge needed to solve the problem must already be stored in thesubject’s brain, and that insight is just linking the knowledge to the problemat hand. Weisberg (2015) proposes that creativity consists primarily ofordinary cognitive processes that give way to extraordinary products. Using thecandle problem aforementioned, he proposes that creative insight occurs whensubjects use conventional cognitive processes and apply them to the knowledgethey already have. (Sternberg 2006) In this event, insight would involve asophisticated interaction between convergent and divergent cognitive processes.(Goel, 2014).The two-string problem (Maier1931) is a slightly fairer task in thatit is less specific to certain domains.
Participants are asked to tie twostrings together which are hanging from the ceiling and are given a plier as their only material.However, the strings are placed with enough distance between them that theparticipant cannot hold both ends simultaneously. The solution is to tie theplier to the end of one string and use it as a pendulum to be able to tie thetwo ends together. It would be interesting to use this test among differentdomains and experience levels at undergraduate and graduate levels in a varietyof courses, as it would serve as a good balance between having the capacity(enough knowledge) to be able to find the solution without having an advantageof knowing more than others and not undergoing insight at all. Creative insight, more specifically the”aha” phenomenon used in Gestalt psychology can be defined as a sudden momentof distinct understanding, that reconstructs the problem in a way that makesthe solution clear. (Sternberg and Davidson, 1995;Irvine, 2015). Insight primarily depends on the cognitive process. Aninsightful problem-solving process will include the subject not being aware ofhow the insight was reached, unlike analytic processes which included a moredeliberate and systematic approach.
(Topolinski and Reber, 2010). Gestalt psychologists also referred to it as’reproductive thinking’, as the same process of problem solving used forproblems similar to the one presented. In this mode of thinking, the subjectmakes conscious, steady incremental progress, whereas in the second mode,insight occurs suddenly and undeliberate. However, recent proposals alsosuggest that there is less of a distinction between the two modes, and thatthere are various ways to achieve insight in a problem. An insightful mode ofthinking depends on unconscious processes; intuition, and this is why theindividual is not likely to trace the steps that led to the solution.
The Gestalt “aha” phenomenon originallyreferred to open-ended situations, such as those presented in Kohler’s 1925study of chimpanzees. However, more recently it refers to a more specific typeof problem solving, in which one undergoes a stage of impasse before thereconstruction of the problem. (Sternberg andDavidson, 1995) Due to its non- analytical process, it has become animportant part of creativity. Another interesting aspect of creative insight isthat it does not always reveal the correct solution. In fact, subjects mayundergo many “mini- insights”, analysing possible solutions where they willconsider the outcome of each before arriving to a conclusion. (Hélie and Sun,2010) The brain’s activity before the moment of insight can bestudied in neuroscience to reveal whether the problem was solved using insightstrategies. (Kounios et al.
, 2006) From a neurological perspective, insightoccurs when neurons in the brain suddenly create connections that had notpreviously existed.The special-process view, which wasproposed by Gestalt psychologists, suggests that insight is the result of aspecific set of processes (the “insight sequence”) that is activated when thesubject has reached a moment of impasse while trying to deal with a problem athand. Gestalt psychologists also proposed that achieving understanding andinsight typically requires that one put aside one’s knowledge and attempt todeal with the problem “on its merits” (Wertheimer, 1982).In order for insight to be tested andrecorded, the problem must be ill-defined. This broadens the problem space,often leading the subject away from the solution.
Insight in ill-definedproblems will occur after a stage of impasse, after which a sudden change inrepresentation allows the solution to be reached; the “aha” phenomenon. Webb, M. E., Little,D. R., & Cropper, S. J., 2016)The more popular version of thisargument is directed specifically at how education impedes creativity.
Althoughthis addresses creativity in general, which differs to insight as it is nottemporally restricted, it is implied that creative insight is included in thecreativity of people. Psychologist Michael Michalko believes that education hasbecome an inhibitor of natural creativity, that “those who know more,create less; and those who know less create more” TED speaker Ken Robinsonhas similar beliefs. However, the counter-argument is usually that it isdifficult to be creative in a field when one is not already an expert in thatfield and that a person must have some sort of knowledge or experience in thefield of interest in order to gain creative insights.Nevertheless, it is difficult toproduce empirical evidence that education reduces creativity because of itscomplexity and subjective measurement, and thus the majority of the supportingclaims are based on anecdotes, which, are usually subject-specific, or includeteaching methods that are no longer in use in most education systems today. Aswell as that, Nobel Laureates, most of whom have had experience in highereducation systems, yet have still managed to create original research orliterature, could be used as evidence against the argument.
A recent study was also done by theNational Endowment for the Arts (NEA), using data from the annual AmericanCommunity Survey and the quarterly census of employment and wages whichconcluded that while people in creative industries make up only 1.4% ofAmerica’s total labour market, they are highly entrepreneurial and twice aslikely to have college degrees. Therefore, this evidence cannotconclusively disprove the idea that education stifles creativity. In a recent study conducted by Kim andZhong, (2107) results suggested that structured knowledge hinders creativity.In the experiments, participants were shown a group of nouns that wereorganized into categories, and a group that was not. The task was to make asmany sentences as they could with the words given. The other experimentparticipants were told to make an alien out of a box of bricks that wereorganized by shape and colour, and one that was unorganised. Kim concluded that”hierarchical information structure, compared to a flat information structure,will reduce creativity because it reduces cognitive flexibility”.
A criticismof this experiment is that it seems quite expected that the second task wouldproduce more unusual results if picked from an assortment; it is less about theparticipants’ creativity being measured. I would agree that from working withmore unusual objects, participants may gain a broader perspective and thereforehave less limitations in their creative work, however I do not think thismeasure should be used to measure creativity in an experiment as such. One of the main limitations of studiesdone on creative insight, specifically how knowledge and experience affect it,is that there is very limited information on how insight occurs and how it isexperienced. In the Cosmelli and Preiss study of 2014 on the temporality ofcreative insight, the phenomenological perspective was taken to study creativeinsight. The authors believed that the phenomenological approach would revealhow “the temporal nuances of the experience of insights highlights thepast-oriented and future-looking dimensions of insight”; the idea that insightrepresents something that seems both familiar and new simultaneously.
Thiswould support Weisberg’s aforementioned idea that it is the link betweenknowledge already stored in memory, with the problem at hand which causesinsight, which would give the sense of the past-oriented and future-lookingaspect. While it is suggested by previousexamples that extensive knowledge and experience can hinder creative insight,it is also argued that true creative insights can only occur if the subject isa master of specialised knowledge in a certain field. (Cosmelli and Preiss).However, this is referring to creative insights that form ideas that are new tothe world, and does not address insights one might experience to solve aproblem, that appear as a new perspective to the subject nonetheless.Furthermore, neuroscientist Paul King supports this by explaining how when thebrain is used repetitively for similar functions and processes, the better itwill get at working in that field, and that therefore, by experiencing newthings every day, your brain is more flexible to create connections betweenideas. (Christensen, 2012)A study was done by Shen, W., Yuan etal. (2016) investigating whether creative insight is task specific which showedthe first neural evidence for the task independence of insight.
Results weregathered using fMRI on three types of insight problem-solving tasks, and showedthat each of them used various distinct, non-overlapping areas of the brain.This study suggested that creative insight is a diverse process, touching uponthe idea that knowledge and experience cause connections in different parts ofthe brain during moments of insight. Previously existing connections acrossbrain areas then make it easier for more connection to be made in the samedomain with experience.An interesting perspective althoughslightly at variance from the topic, was the study of how specific experiencescan affect creative insight. Marie Forgeard conducted a research survey lookingat perceived self-creativity and how it relates to adverse life experiences andfound a correlation with creativity and psychological orders and negative lifeevents.
It suggested that that people in emotional distress may deal withtrauma through creative activities, and that certain events and experience canlead them to gain fresh insights. Although the survey research report onperceived creativity is extremely subjective and doesn’t produce any empiricalresults, the topic is one that should be further explored in order to betterunderstand how the psychological well-being of a person can also affectcreative insight.