Test your Insight

Test your Insight

Think of one word that can form a compound word with “sauce,” “pine,” and “crab.”Take a moment and think. See if you figure it out.

Now, try to form a compound word with “fence,” “card,” and “master.”

And last, form a compound word with “bump,” “step,” and “egg.”

If you’re like many people, you tried to solve each problem methodically, first finding a word that would go with, say, “sauce” and then trying it out with “pine” and “crab.” In most cases people become stuck. It’s only after over thinking the problem will people relax and allow their thoughts to flow freely and intermingle with each other that suddenly the answer pops up seemingly from nowhere. “Eureka!” [The answers to the above, incidentally, are at the end of the article.]

Cognitive scientists are trying to figure out how and why the answers pop up out of thin air, partly because some of the more notable achievements in, especially, science and math came to their discoverers through such “eureka” moments—Archimedes’ law of buoyancy and Newton’s theory of gravity, for instance. (“Eureka” is in fact what Archimedes yelled when he leapt out of his bathtub upon figuring out how to calculate the volume of an irregularly shaped object: measure how much water it displaces.)

Research suggests that success depends on an unconscious restructuring of information. The more work you put into thinking about a problem, the more thoughts and bits of information you put into random motion in your subconscious. When you quit thinking about the subject and decide to forget it, your subconscious mind doesn’t quit working. Your thoughts keep colliding, combining and making associations millions of times.

This is when scientists believe your subconscious mind goes into what they call “an internal retrieval process,” which searches your memory for appropriate and inappropriate ideas that can be used to reinterpret your knowledge (for instance, don’t think only of words that come before the given ones).

ANSWERS:
Think of one word that can form a compound word with “sauce,” “pine,” and “crab.”
ANSWER: APPLE

“Fence,” “card,” and “master.”
ANSWER: POST

“Bump,” “step,” and “egg.”
ANSWER: GOOSE

Here is one last one to take with you. What is the one word that can form a compound word with: “back” “clip” and “wall?”
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(Michael Michalko is the author of Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques; Cracking Creativity: The Thinking Strategies of Creative Geniuses; and Thinkpak: A Brainstorming Card Deck. His new book Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work has just been released. http://www.creativethinking.net)

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