Examining Tasks that Facilitate the Experience of Incubation While Problem-Solving


  • Lilly Both
  • Douglas Needham
  • Eileen Wood




The three studies presented here contrasted the problem-solving outcomes of university students when a break was provided or not provided during a problem-solving session. In addition, two studies explored the effect of providing hints (priming) and the placement of hints during the problem-solving session. First, the ability to solve a previously unsolved problem (incubation) was demonstrated. However, the incubation effect was dependent on the placement of the hint and the kind of hint provided. Incubation occurred with challenging word problems (paired-anagrams). Furthermore, the effect was facilitated when a break from study was provided and where a hint directing the student toward a solution was provided during the break. Verbal ability was not related to performance in problem-solving tasks involving paired-anagrams. In general, there are reliable interventions for promoting incubation in problem-solving situations. These interventions include attention to the task demands and the context of study.