Eureka effect  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Eureka effect, also known as the aha! effect, refers to the common human experience of suddenly understanding a previously incomprehensible problem or concept. The Eureka effect is named after the myth that the Greek polymath Archimedes, having discovered how to measure the volume of an irregular object, leaped out of a public bath, and ran home naked shouting "eureka" (I found it). Archimedes was asked by the local king to detect whether a crown was pure gold, or if the goldsmith had added silver. During his trip to the public bath, he noticed that water is displaced when his body sinks into the bath, and that the volume of water displaced equals the volume of the body immersed in the water. This means that he can measure the density of the crown, and compare it to a bar of pure gold. This story is thought to be a myth, because it was first mentioned by the Roman writer Vitruvius nearly 200 years after the event, and because the method described by Vitruvius would have been inaccurate.

Some research describes the Aha! effect (also known as insight or epiphany) as a memory advantage, but conflicting results exist as to where exactly it occurs in the brain, and it is difficult to predict under what circumstances one can predict an Aha! moment.

Insight is a psychological term that attempts to describe the process in problem solving when a previously unsolvable puzzle becomes suddenly clear and obvious. Often this transition from not understanding to spontaneous comprehension is accompanied by an exclamation of joy or satisfaction, an Aha! moment. A person utilizing insight to solve a problem is able to give accurate, discrete, all-or-nothing type responses, whereas individuals not using the insight process are more likely to produce partial, incomplete responses.

A recent theoretical account of the Aha! moment started with four defining attributes of this experience. First, the Aha! moment appears suddenly; second, the solution to a problem can be processed smoothly, or fluently; third, the Aha! moment elicits positive affect; fourth, a person experiencing the Aha! moment is convinced that a solution is true. These four attributes are not separate but can be combined because the experience of processing fluency, especially when it occurs surprisingly (for example, because it is sudden), elicits both positive affect and judged truth

Insight can be conceptualized as a two phase process. The first phase of an Aha! experience requires the problem solver to come upon an impasse, where they become stuck and even though they may seemingly have explored all the possibilities, are still unable to retrieve or generate a solution. The second phase occurs suddenly and unexpectedly. After a break in mental fixation or re-evaluating the problem, the answer is retrieved. Some research suggest that insight problems are difficult to solve because of our mental fixation on the inappropriate aspects of the problem content. In order to solve insight problems, one must “think outside the box”. It is this elaborate rehearsal that may cause people to have better memory for Aha! moments. Insight is believed to occur with a break in mental fixation, allowing the solution to appear transparent and obvious.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Eureka effect" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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