Insight and experimental dialectics

Stephen Cowley, Evie Fioratou

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


The study of insight can be used to pose questions about human cognition. Taking a distributed perspective, we illustrate this against experimental work on the cheap necklace problem (Fioratou, 2006; Fioratou & Cowley, in press). A central finding is that, when artifacts prompt insight, thinking arises in the act. In some settings, some participants are prompted to use action-perception cycles in ways that set off insight. In traditional terms, object manipulation is able to affect a participant’s range of possible moves. Distributed cognitive systems exploit interaction between individuals and artefacts. We can thus focus on how participants (and, equally, groups of participants) use a physical problem space to generate and/or notice relevant affordances. This lends new clarity to how brains and bodies generate insightful cognition. Turning to well-known examples of problem solving, we sketch how cognition in action can be investigated by modifying well-known methods. In so doing, we emphasise an experimental dialectic that is, we believe, transferable to other domains. Finally, we conclude by spelling out why, even in principle, human insight is bound to remain beyond the reaches of cognitive neuroscience.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2009
EventThe 26th Annual British Psychology Society Cognitive Section Conference - Hatfield, United Kingdom
Duration: 1 Sept 20091 Sept 2009


ConferenceThe 26th Annual British Psychology Society Cognitive Section Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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