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This article is part of the Research Topic

Mechanisms of Metacognition

Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01023

How and when? Metacognition and solution timing characterize an “aha” experience of object recognition in hidden figures

  • 1Department of Computational Intelligence and Systems Science, Interdisciplinary Graduate School of Science and Engineering, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan
  • 2Division of Digital Content and Media Sciences Research, National Institute of Informatics, Japan
  • 3Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Japan

The metacognitive feelings of an “aha!” experience are key to comprehending human subjective experience. However, behavioral characteristics of this introspective cognition are not well known. An aha experience sometimes occurs when one gains a solution abruptly in problem solving, a subjective experience that subserves the conscious perception of an insight. We experimentally induced an aha experience in a hidden object recognition task, and analyzed whether this aha experience was associated with metacognitive judgments and behavioral features. We used an adaptation of Mooney images, i.e., morphing between a greyscale image and its binarised image in 100 steps, to investigate the phenomenology associated with insight: aha experience, confidence, suddenness, and pleasure. Here we show that insight solutions are more accurate than non-insight solutions. As metacognitive judgments, participants' confidence in the correctness of their solution is higher in insight than non-insight problem solving. Intensities of the aha feeling are positively correlated with subjective rating scores of both suddenness and pleasure, features that show marked signs of unexpected positive emotions. The strength of the aha experience is also positively correlated with response times from the onset of presentation until finding the solution, or with task difficulty only if the solution confidence is high enough. Our findings provide metacognitive and temporal conditions for an aha experience, characterizing features distinct from those supporting non-aha experience.

Keywords: “AHA!” experience, Insight, Problem Solving, Suddenness, Pleasure, confidence, Recognition time, metacognition, hidden figure

Received: 20 Nov 2018; Accepted: 17 Apr 2019.

Edited by:

Megan Peters, University of California, Riverside, United States

Reviewed by:

Glenn Carruthers, School of Psychology, Charles Sturt University, Australia
Margaret Webb, The University of Melbourne, Australia  

Copyright: © 2019 Ishikawa, Toshima and Mogi. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Ken Mogi, Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Tokyo, Japan,