Date of Award

Fall 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Director

Ivan K. Ash

Committee Member

Elaine M. Justice

Committee Member

James P. Bliss


Some theories propose that insight involves automatic processes that are responsible for restructuring. Other theories postulate that the mechanisms surrounding restructuring are controlled and effortful. The current study tested these theories by comparing different methodology and operational definitions that have been used in previous research to investigate the nature of “Aha!” experiences and impasse in insightful problem solving. One hundred two undergraduate psychology students from Old Dominion University completed working memory tasks, six classic insight problems, and gave initial problem representation ratings for the insight problems before solution attempt. Using a think-aloud protocol, we assessed the occurrence of impasse during the problem solving phase. After solving each problem, participants completed self-reported, measures of the Aha! experience—solution confidence, how sudden a solution appeared, and the effort required. Results demonstrated distinctly different response patterns between self-reported ratings of insight and the empirically coded measure of impasse when compared with all other variables of interest. This suggests that the Aha! ratings lack construct validity as an assessment of insight. Further, we replicated contradictory working memory correlations found in previous research with the self-report ratings and impasse coding, suggesting that discrepancies in the literature were the result of how insight was assessed. These findings call into question previous research utilizing self-report Aha! ratings.


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