Insight and cognitive ecosystems

Frédéric Vallée-Tourangeau, Sune Vork Steffensen, Gaëlle Vallée-Tourangeau, Angeliki Makri

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


    Outside the cognitive psychologist's laboratory, problem solving is an activity that takes place in a rich web of interactions involving people and artifacts. Through this interactivity, a reasoner's comprehension of the problem emerges from a coalition of internal and external resources. In the experiment presented here, interactivity was explored under laboratory conditions. Participants were invited to solve an insight problem, the so-called 17 Animals problem. The solution to this problem involves the spatial arrangements of sets. The problem masquerades as an arithmetic problem, which creates a difficult impasse to overcome. Problem solving took place in two different ecosystems: in one, participants were given a stylus and an electronic tablet to sketch out a model of the solution; in a second, participants could interact with artifacts that corresponded to the problem's physical constituent features to build a model of the solution. Participants in the sketch group were never able to break the impasse, that is to abandon their interpretation of the problem as one requiring an arithmetic solution. Participants in the model building group were more likely to break the impasse and discover a productive action trajectory that helped them identify a plausible solution. Video evidence revealed substantial differences in the manner with which participants 'thought' about the problem as a function of the type of interactivity afforded by the two cognitive ecosystems. Insight was enacted through model building activity.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationProceedings of the Thirty-seventh Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society
    EditorsDavid C. Noelle, Rick Dale, Anne Warlaumont, Jeff Yoshimi, Teenie Matlock, Carolyn D. Jennings, Paul P. Maglio
    PublisherCognitive Science Society
    Publication date2015
    ISBN (Electronic)978-0-9911967-2-2
    Publication statusPublished - 2015
    Event37th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society: Mind, Technology, and Society - Pasadena, CA, United States
    Duration: 22. Jul 201525. Jul 2015
    Conference number: 37


    Conference37th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society
    Country/TerritoryUnited States
    CityPasadena, CA


    • Problem solving
    • distributed cognition
    • enactivism
    • insight


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