A 'Small-World' Network Model of Cognitive Insight

Schilling, M.A. 2005. A Small-World Network Model of Cognitive Insight. Creativity Research Journal, 17(2&3):131-154.

50 Pages Posted: 11 May 2013

See all articles by Melissa A. Schilling

Melissa A. Schilling

New York University (NYU) - Department of Management and Organizational Behavior

Date Written: March 9, 2004

Abstract

Despite many decades of study, scientists still puzzle over the process of insight. By what mechanism does a person experience that “Aha!” moment, when sudden clarity emerges from a tangled web of thoughts and ideas? This research integrates psychological work on insight with graph theoretic work on “small-world” phenomenon, to construct a theory that explains how insight occurs, how it is similar to and different from more typical learning processes, and why it yields an affective response in the individual. I propose that cognitive insight occurs when an atypical association, forged through random recombination or directed search, results in a "shortcut" in an individual's network of representations. This causes a rapid decrease in path length, reorients the individual's understanding of the relationships within and among the affected representations, and can prompt a cascade of other connections. This result is demonstrated by applying graph theoretical analysis to network translations of commonly used insight problems.

Keywords: cognitive insight, small-world networks, learning, creativity

Suggested Citation

Schilling, Melissa A., A 'Small-World' Network Model of Cognitive Insight (March 9, 2004). Schilling, M.A. 2005. A Small-World Network Model of Cognitive Insight. Creativity Research Journal, 17(2&3):131-154.. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2263076

Melissa A. Schilling (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) - Department of Management and Organizational Behavior ( email )

40 West Fourth Street
New York, NY 10012
United States
212-998-0249 (Phone)
212-995-4235 (Fax)

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