Priming insight in groups: facilitating and inhibiting solving an ambiguously worded insight problem

Mem Cognit. 2011 Jan;39(1):128-46. doi: 10.3758/s13421-010-0014-7.


We extend research on the priming of insight by studying group problem solving. Groups of 2-4 participants tried to solve an ambiguously worded problem in the presence of a prime that reinforced the dominant but incorrect interpretation of the problem, a prime that reinforced the uncommon but correct interpretation, or no prime. The paradigm involved participants asking questions of the experimenter that could only be answered "yes" or "no." In Experiment 1, the prime was present throughout the solving period; in Experiment 2, it was removed prior to the solving period. In both experiments, the primes had their predicted effects. Patterns in the time taken to solve the problem supported the idea that groups stuck at the impasse were more or less able to restructure the problem, depending on the environmental context. Data from the questions asked and questionnaires converged with time taken to solve the problem, consistent with the view that restructuring a problem is an automatic process that produces insight. A comparison of the group data in Experiment 1 with individually tested participants' data revealed that the insight of the groups benefited from their being able to recognize lines of questions to follow, to listen to answers to questions asked, and to evaluate and reject errors or assumptions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Association
  • Awareness*
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Cues*
  • Female
  • Group Processes*
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Problem Solving*
  • Reaction Time
  • Semantics*
  • Young Adult