fixation in groups, group problem solving, incubation effects




Recent research has shown that the benefits associated with incubation periods during individual problem solving can be explained in terms of forgetting the material or of any strategy that serves to block progress toward success (e.g., Smith & Blankenship, 1991). While interacting groups reliably outperform individuals on both problem-solving and recall tasks, groups’ superior memory capacity may serve to hinder problem solving, especially when fixation has occurred. In the present study, individuals and three-person groups attempted to solve a set of 20 rebus puzzles on two different occasions. In the first session rebuses were accompanied by “clues,” that were designed to either help or hinder problem solving. Following a 15-minute filled incubation period, the rebuses were again presented without the clues. As expected, groups recalled more of the clues than did individual problem solvers. Additionally, individual problem-solvers’ performance was improved following the incubation period on the misleading clue items but not the good clue items. Following incubation, groups improved on both the helpful and misleading clue items. The possibility that incubation effects may vary with task type in group problem-solving contexts is discussed.


Original Citation: Smith, Christine M., Emily Bushouse, and Jennifer Lord. "Individual and Group Performance on Insight Problems: The Effects of Experimentally Induced Fixation." Group Processes & Intergroup Relations 13, no. 1 (2009): 91-99.

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