Thursday 20 October 2011

The Eureka effect

Greek Polymath Archimedes

The Eureka effect: any sudden unexpected discovery, or the sudden realization of the solution to a problem, resulting in a eureka moment (the moment of unexpected discovery) also known as the aha phenomenon and it is similar to an epiphany(the sudden realization or comprehension of the (larger) essence or meaning of something).

Fictional Eureka moment, Doc Brown

You remember how you learnt cycling? Someone helped you support the cycle. You fumbled, fell down several times till you ‘got’ it. That was how you learnt the balance.
Known as the ‘aah’ effect or Eureka effect. You discover it and then it stays with you for life.

There are four features of problem solving resulting in the eureka effect:

  1. People reach an impasse where they are no longer moving towards a solution of the problem.
  2. People usually cannot describe the processing that allows them to solve the problem, and insight often occurs when the person is not even aware that they are thinking about the problem.
  3. The solutions to the problems are perceived as happening suddenly. Experiments where subjects were asked to solve insight based problems have found that even seconds away from a eureka moment, subjects felt just as far from a solution as at any point in the process.
  4. Creative thinking and other cognitive abilities are associated with performance on insight problems.

Some unconscious processing may take place while a person is asleep, and there are several cases of scientific discoveries coming to people in their dreams. Friedrich August Kekulé von Stradonitz said that the ring structure of benzene came to him in a dream where a snake was eating its own tail. Studies have shown increased performance at insight problems if the subjects slept during a break between receiving the problem and solving it.
Sleep may function to restructure problems, and allow new insights to be reached.
If you have more light sleep periods through the day, does that mean more discoveries occur?

Eureka discoveries can come from what Frans Johansson calls the Medici effect.
When two divergent concepts from different disciplines or cultures are combined you create extraordinary ideas.

Whether it was a burn which you experienced as a child, or tasting of honey, or learning swimming or cycling, they stay with you for life. You do not need to relearn it. That’s not true for academics or subjects you learnt in the classroom.
Could we make all learning into a process of achieving the Eureka effect even in schools?

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