Feeling the Insight: Uncovering Somatic Markers of the "aha" Experience

Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2018 Mar;43(1):13-21. doi: 10.1007/s10484-017-9381-1.

Abstract

Whether internal insight can be recognized by experiencing (somatic feeling) remains an unexplored problem. This study investigated the issue by examining potential somatic markers of the "aha" experience occurring at the moment of sudden insight. Participants were required to solve a set of compound remote associates (CRA) problems and were simultaneously monitored via electrodermal and cardiovascular recordings. The "aha"-related psychological components and somatic markers were determined by contrasting insightful solutions with non-insightful solutions. Results showed that the "aha" experience was an amalgam entailing positive affects and approached cognition accompanied by a greater mean skin conductance response (mSCR) amplitude and a marginally accelerated heart rate than the "no-aha" one. These results confirm and extend findings of the multidimensionality of the "aha" feeling and offer the first direct evidence of somatic markers, particularly an electrodermal signature of an "aha" feeling, which suggests a sudden insight could likely be experienced by individuals' external soma.

Keywords: Creative insight; Skin conductance response; Somatic marker; “aha” experience.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asian Continental Ancestry Group
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena
  • China
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Creativity*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Galvanic Skin Response / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Problem Solving / physiology*