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Unpacking Impasse-Related Experience during Insight

  • Wangbing Shen (a1), Yuan Yuan (a2), Fang Lu (a3), Chang Liu (a4), Jing Luo (a5) and Zhijin Zhou (a6)...


Mental impasse has long been recognized as a hallmark of creative insight, but its precise role has been unexplored. The aim of the present work, consisting of two studies, was to experimentally probe mental impasse perspective from insight experience, namely impasse-related experience during insight. In Study 1, participants were requested to complete a compound remote association task and a forced-choice subjective experience depiction task that could provide data on impasse-related experience. The results showed that reports of negative experience, such as feelings of loss (t = –5.51, p < .001, Cohen d = 1.07) and personal experience (mirrored by ‘other’ response; t = –2.62, p < .05, Cohen d = 0.48), were more common in the impasse condition than in the no-impasse condition; correspondingly positive affect and positive cognitive experiences such as happiness (t = 4.20, p < .001, Cohen d = 0.77), ease (t = 5.90, p < .001, Cohen d = 1.20), certainty (t = 7.46, p < .001, Cohen d = 1.36) and calmness (t = 4.42, p < .001, Cohen d = 0.81) were experienced more frequently in the no-impasse condition. These findings were replicated in Study 2, in which participants were invited to solve a set of classic insight problems and to freely report any feelings of being at an impasse. Across two studies, this work suggests that impasse-related experience during insight problem solving is multi-faceted and consists of negative affective and cognitive components. The implications of these findings are discussed.


Corresponding author

*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Wangbing Shen. Hohai University, 210098 Nanjing. E-mail: Yuan Yuan, Jiangsu Provincial Key Laboratory of Special Children’s Impairment and Intervention & School of Education Science, Nanjing Normal University of Special Education, 210038 Nanjing. Email: Chang Liu, Nanjing Normal University, 210097 Nanjing. Email: Jing Luo, Capital Normal University, 100048 Beijing. Email: Or Zhijin Zhou, Central China Normal University, 430079 Wuhan, Email:


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This work was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province (BK20181029), National Natural Science Foundation of China (31500870, 31471000), Philosophy and Social Science fund of Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions (2017SJB0649), China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2017M621603), the Foundation of DaYu Plan of Hohai University, the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (2017B15314) and the Natural Science Foundation of the Higher Education Institutions of Jiangsu Province (17KJB190002). We thank Meifeng Hua and Meijiao Wang for their help in collecting the data of Study 2.

How to cite this article:

Shen, W., Yuan, Y., Lu, F., Liu, C., Luo, J., & Zhou, Z. (2019). Unpacking impasse-related experience during insight. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 22. e39. Doi:10.1017/sjp.2019.40



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Unpacking Impasse-Related Experience during Insight

  • Wangbing Shen (a1), Yuan Yuan (a2), Fang Lu (a3), Chang Liu (a4), Jing Luo (a5) and Zhijin Zhou (a6)...


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