Unconscious creativity: The Eureka moment

Investigating the Moment when Solutions emerge in Problem Solving

At some point during a creative action something clicks, suddenly the prospective problem solver just knows the solution to a problem, and a feeling of joy and relief arises. This phenomenon, called Eureka experience, insight, Aha moment, hunch, epiphany, illumination, or serendipity, has been part of human narrations for thousands of years. It is the moment of a subjective experience, a surprising, and sometimes a life-changing event. The aim of this project is to narrow down this moment 1. conceptually, 2. experientially, and 3. temporally.

The concept of emerging solutions has a multidisciplinary background in Cognitive Science, Arts, Design, and Engineering. With the interdisciplinary supervisory team, Frank discussed previous terminology. Through a comparative reviews of historical literature, he identified sources of ambiguity surrounding this phenomenon and suggested unifying terms as the basis for further interdisciplinary exploration. Tracking the experience based on qualitative data from creative practitioners, he identified conflicting aspects of existing models of creative production. To bridge this theoretical and disciplinary divide between iterative design thinking and sequential models of creativity, he developed a novel multi-layered model.

Empirical support for the interdisciplinary approach and the proposed multi-layered model comes from ‘Dira’, a computer-based open-ended experimental paradigm. It was developed as part of this project. The task consists of 40 unique sets of stimuli and response items to collect dynamic measures of the creative process and evade known problems of insightful tasks. Using Dira, the moment when solutions emerge was identified from the number and duration of mouse-interactions with the on-screen elements and the participants’ self-reports. The discrepancy between the timing observed in Dira and existing sequential models was resolved through the multi-layered model as well. Furthermore, the empirical data from interviews and Dira demonstrates, that the rich human experience of Eureka moments can be assessed on more than a dichotomous scale. The breadth of outcomes from this projects show, that the research on insight benefits from an interdisciplinary approach.

Peer reviewed publications

  • Loesche, F., Goslin, J., & Bugmann, G. (2018). Paving the Way to Eureka — Introducing “Dira” as an Experimental Paradigm to Observe the Process of Creative Problem Solving. Frontiers in Psychology, 9. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01773
  • Kristensen, M. S., Loesche, F., & Maranan, D. S. (2017). Navigating Cognitive Innovation, AVANT, 8 [Special Edition], 45–55. doi:10.26913/80s02017.0111.0005
  • Łucznik, K. & Loesche, F. (2017). Dance Improvisational Cognition, AVANT, 8 [Special Edition], 227–238. doi:10.26913/80s02017.0111.0021
  • Oztop, P., Loesche, F., Maranan, D. S., Francis, K. B., Tyagi, V., & Torre, I. (2017). (Not So) Dangerous Liaisons: A Framework for Evaluating Collaborative Research Projects, AVANT, 8 [Special Edition], 167–179. doi:10.26913/80s02017.0111.0016
  • Taranu, M., & Loesche, F. (2017). Spectres of Ambiguity in Divergent Thinking and Perceptual Switching, AVANT, 8 [Special Edition], 121–133. doi:10.26913/80s02017.0111.0012
  • Torre, I., & Loesche, F. (2016). Overcoming Impasses in Conversations: A Creative Business, Creativity. Theories -- Research -- Applications 3(2), 244–260. doi:10.1515/ctra-2016-0016
  • Marshall, J., Loesche, F., Linehan, C., Johnson, D., & Martelli, B. (2015). Grand Push Auto: A Car Based Exertion Game, Proceedings of CHI Play 2015 631–636. doi:10.1145/2793107.2810314
  • Loesche, F., & Łucznik, K. (2017). Editorial: Our GIFT to All of Us: GA(Y)AM. AVANT, 8 [Special Issue], 13–16. doi:10.26913/80s02017.0111.0001

Other publications

  • Loesche, F. (2015). Get Ready for an Idea - A Brief Comparison of Existing Techniques to Support Cognitive Innovation. In Proceedings of Off the Lip 2015 173–180
  • Maranan, D. S., Loesche, F., & Denham, S. L. (2015). CogNovo: Cognitive Innovation for Technological, Artistic, and Social Domains. In Proceedings of the 21st International Symposium on Electronic Arts 2015. doi:10.5281/zenodo.1172841

Presentations and contributions

  • SOU Creativity Conference Southern Oregon University, Ashland, OR, USA. Oral presentation. No Trainspotting: Eureka moments and the timetables of creative processes. August 2018.
  • University of California Berkeley, California, USA. Invited talk with Diego S. Maranan, Agi Haines, and Sean Clarke. Collaboration and Cognitive Innovation: the Eureka Moment, Floating Brains, Reimagining the Body, and Acoustic Osteology August 2018.
  • UK Creativity 2018 Canterbury Christ Church, UK. Oral Presentation. Your thought is no train: Using Eureka moments to trace creative processes. May 2018.
  • AVANT, Vol. VIII, Special Issue Centre for Philosophical Research, Warsaw, PL. Editor. Collaborative Approaches to Cognitive Innovation November 2017.
  • CREATE Research Hub University of Buckingham, UK. Invited talk. How to study the creative process November 2017.
  • Creativity Week Conference Radboud University Nijmegen, NL. Poster presentation. Understanding problem solving as a multi-layered process. October 2017.
  • Off the Lip 2017 CogNovo, University of Plymouth, UK. Event organisation. CogNovo Colloquium on Experiences and Applications of Cognitive Innovation August 2017.
  • UK Creativity 2017 Napier University, UK. Best poster award. If time is the essence, we don’t want to interfere. May 2017.
  • Off the Lip 2016 CogNovo, University of Plymouth, UK. Event organisation. Bizarre Bazaar and Manufactory October 2016.
  • ColLaboratoire2016 CogNovo, University of Plymouth, UK. Workshop leader. Do You Hear What I See? August 2016.
  • CI Conference 2016 Cognition Institute, University of Plymouth, UK. Oral presentation. How Do Architects Create? July 2016.
  • PUSoP2016 University of Plymouth, UK. Poster presentation. Get ready for an idea – A brief comparison of existing techniques to support cognitive innovation June 2016.
  • Neural Basis for Creativity CogNovo, University of Plymouth, UK. Poster presentation. Time Course of a Eureka Experiment April 2016.
  • CI Conference 2015 Cognition Institute, University of Plymouth, UK. Poster presentation. Nothing to see here or: Is there a special process during insightful problem solving? 2015.
Research Fellow
Frank Loesche

Guido Bugmann, Jeremy Goslin, Katharine Willis  (Plymouth University)