Eureka, epiphany, turning on the light bulb … so many expressions that refer to the same phenomenon: learn by insight.
This term refers to that situation where suddenly and unexpectedly we see the relationships between two things that apparently didn’t have them.
Knowledge has played a decisive role in the development of science and of humanity itself throughout its history, as great discoveries and inventions are not mere products of trial and error, but also sudden revelations. Let’s see below.
What is insightful learning?
In psychology, insightful learning is that phenomenon that occurs when we have a sudden understanding of a cause and effect relationship in a particular context. It is new knowledge that is generated by introspectioni.e. having certain knowledge in our memory that we suddenly see could be related and give us a new vision and understanding of reality.
In reality, an insight is knowledge that arises in our mind by itself, from the relation of two distinct concepts, ideas and knowledge. It can also be the result of seeing a daily phenomenon from a new perspective or paying attention to something that we normally don’t pay much attention to. Learn through insight gives rise to ideas behind popular phrases such as “light a light bulb”, “a eureka moment” and “have an epiphany”.
The main psychology school that studied insight was Gestalt, although the first to study this type of learning was psychologist and linguist Karl Bühler. According to Bühler, insight is one of the fundamental learning processes and can be found in species other than our own, especially in higher primates, as evidenced by studies conducted by Wolfgang Köhler.
In the human species, this phenomenon is the source of much of the creativity, culture, and technological and scientific development that differentiates us from other animals.
Types of perception
The idea of insight learning has generated a lot of interest since it arose during the first half of the 20th century. Although this is not a closed classification, today it is considered that there are three main forms of this type of learning: breaking the model, contradiction and connection. We see them in more depth below.
1. Overview of model interruption
The human mind tends to categorize and interpret the world based on its past experiences. When we encounter a situation, we subconsciously search our memory for a memory, learning or experience that helps us know how to overcome it, especially if we see something familiar to us in the situation.
Using heuristics is a fast and efficient way to deal with known information, great for dealing with everyday problems, but what happens when the situation is completely new and unknown? In this case, we keep looking for information in our memory to see if we have anything that helps us stray, but here it is not working for us. Heuristics can make us forget certain information or try to resolve the new situation inefficiently..
In this case, the insight will come when the person gives up their usual style of thinking. For new situations, it does not help us to think and act in the same way as in everyday contexts. We have to think differently, and the use of heuristics is negative because it can make us forget information or make us inefficiently try to solve the new situation. You have to break with the model, change your mentality.
This type of insight is what we can often see in word games, puzzles, riddles, and other ingenuity games, besides being the type of insight behind creativity and testing new strategies.
Another type of insight learning is what happens when we detect a contradiction in a family situation, a situation which, until recently, was quite normal and consistent. When we detect this discrepancy, we begin to wonder what other aspects could be wrong in a model, situation or knowledge that we have.
That implies take a critical look at the reality that, until then, we had assumed to be true. Granted, that can be worked around, but not unless you’re a techie who knows what he’s doing.
There may also be a change in our belief system when seeing that what we believed in was not as true as we thought it was. We challenge our correct view of the world and search for new data.
Finally, we find the most common type of learning by insight: that of connection. As its name suggests, it is established from the connection between two or more acquaintances suddenly, putting in relation data which does not seem to be related to each other but which, by associating them, we acquire new knowledge.
We are able to apply what we have seen in a situation and move that information to a new problem that we did not know how to solve before.
What are the benefits of insightful learning?
At this point, we can understand the importance of insight learning. Learning like this based on revelations and epiphanies allows us to make discoveries that would not otherwise be accessible to us.
As we have mentioned, this type of learning has been fundamental in the history of mankind, as many new inventions, discoveries and ideas have emerged from eureka moments. Knowledge through ideas suddenly moves us forward, while trial and error is a more tedious and time-consuming process..
But like everything good in this life, insights have a problem: they are totally out of control and sudden. Indeed, because they arise spontaneously and without our being able to suppose that it will happen to us, they are called epiphanies as if it were a religious revelation. We will never know when we will have one of those crucial moments for expanding our knowledge and having new ideas.
However, and despite its uncontrollable nature, there are people who are more inclined to experience these phenomena. Insightful learning is believed to be characteristic of people with high intelligence and is believed to be related to lateral thinking, that is, the ability to observe situations from very different angles than the way people do. others see them.
This does not mean that there are people who are incapable of experiencing this type of learning. We are all capable of learning through insights, but it is true that greater intelligence can increase the chances of experiencing them. In addition, it is possible to train the ability to have ideas by encouraging critical thinking, to observe all the details of the situation in which one finds oneself and to ask all kinds of questions, even in situations. that we think we know.
- Seguí, V. (2015). Insight into psychology. ISEP training.