Abstract

Event-related potentials (ERPs) were investigated to find precursors of insightful behavior. Participants had to process successive pairs in strings of digits to obtain a final response in each trial. Within the sequence of five responses required in each trial, the last two responses mirrored the two preceding ones. This hidden regularity, allowing for shortcutting each trial from five to two responses, was discovered by 6 out of 26 participants. Both groups, solvers and nonsolvers, implicitly learned the regularity, reflected by faster responses to the repeated, predictable responses, but this differential effect was larger in solvers, whereas nonsolvers became unspecifically faster with all responses. Several ERP components were larger in solvers than in nonsolvers from the outset: slow positive wave, frontocentral P3a, anterior N1 to those digits that triggered the critical repeating responses, and P3b to the digit that evoked the immediately repeating response. Being already present in the first block, these effects were early precursors of insightful behavior. This early occurrence suggests that participants who will gain insight may be distinguished beforehand by their individual characteristics.

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