128

It sounds like you're talking about a classic example of Incubation. Incubation is defined as a process of unconscious recombination of thought elements that were stimulated through conscious work at one point in time, resulting in novel ideas at some later point in time. Here's a great article by John F. Kihlstrom: Intuition, Incubation, and Insight: ...


24

Check out the book The Psychology of Computer Programming by Gerald Weinberg. Originally published in 1971 it was recently produced in a Silver Anniversary version. I own an original copy and read it again about every five years. Weinberg and Glenford Myers both wrote amazing texts which will be useful forever. In Weinberg, the situation you are ...


22

A large part is cultural, because, until recently, the people with the best education and most of the money have been men. Sexism kept women out of schools for a long time. It also kept pushing women into what were perceived to be more appropriate studies (nothing technical) when they were allowed into schools. Have a look at the sexism page at Wikipedia. ...


20

Sounds like a form of Synesthesia, in particular it sounds like Number Form Synesthesia mixed with Grapheme-color Synesthesia: A number form is a mental map of numbers, which automatically and involuntarily appears whenever someone who experiences number-forms thinks of numbers. Number forms were first documented and named by Francis Galton in "The ...


17

The phenomenon's called the incubation effect. Wikipedia operationally defines the incubation effect as any benefit of a break during problem solving. In Wallas’ (1926) four-stage model of innovative problem solving or creativity, the incubation stage is the stage in which one takes some time away from the problem (the stages are: preparation, incubation, ...


13

This is a big topic, which I don't feel I can do justice to, but here are a few thoughts nonetheless. It's also important to see how resort to biological arguments could help to perpetuate such gender differences. Brain is not behaviour Brain differences are irrelevant if they do not manifest in behaviour. Thus, to show that size of structure of the brain ...


11

What you are describing is a mental bottleneck (or that is the term coined by David Rock Anyway - I actually wrote about it (in the context of Dual N Back training in this blog post - to quote myself A bottleneck happens when you can't solve a problem because you can't remove a bad thought from your brain. A bad thought is something you know doesn't ...


11

It's a big topic. The relationship between group size and performance on a cognitive task is going to vary by several factors. Here are a few thoughts: The form of interdependence adopted by the group on the task will matter. When everyone can just work independently (e.g., taking calls in a call centre), then it makes sense that output would increase ...


11

I have number Synesthesia, actually, and numbers do indeed appear as a specific pattern inside my head -- I have never not seen numbers this way, and have even drawn my number map for my own edification and to show people what I'm talking about when I try and explain my synaesthesia to them. Numbers are not individual digits to me; they are one huge entity....


10

I recently read a paper, which showed a mathematical model for performance scaling of research groups in different scientific branches. I'm aware you were originally asking for smaller "cognitive tasks" and project-like group-processes in the comments, but output and quality of publications/patents is probably anyway a better and more objective measure on a ...


8

I believe that this excellent answer can shed some light on why you might be unable to figure out the problem. The answerer described it as mental exhaustion, mental fatigue or mental stress. This, though does not explain why you will suddenly see the solution, but I would guess that the tired part of the brain will continue working on the problem in some ...


8

Actually, standard IQ tests, such as Raven's matrices, tend to assess intelligence better if they are not timed. In this paper by Philip Vernon (1988) it was found that the g-factor extracted slightly more variance for the same test if the test was not timed than if it had a time limit. This means if you ask yourself: "What is this test measuring?", you can ...


7

I just quickly looked this up on Google Scholar and found the following interesting reference : JN Macgregor, T Ormerod. "Human performance on the traveling salesman problem." Perception & Psychophysics Volume 58, Issue 4, pp 527-539 (June 1996) This paper claims that "complexity of TSPs is a function of number of nonboundary points, not total number ...


6

There is an unclear relationship between classical conceptions of a unitary view of mental workload to the modern constructs of cognitive psychology and neuroscience that are relevant to your question. This is partly because mental workload is tough to define, and also because it is far too coarse a construct given the extremely large variety of dynamic ...


6

There are two theoretical constructions that may be of use to you: Scaffolding "...what the child is able to do in collaboration today he will be able to do independently tomorrow" -Vygotsky You are right to graduate the level of difficulty of problems the students encounter. Intuitively, a student has before her a level of task which, although perhaps ...


6

How one performs quick mental calculations through tricks and shortcuts can easily be looked up on the internet. How some Savant's do it cannot because we don't know. There is some argument that some do those same tricks but others seem not to do so. Consider that a substantial amount of computational power goes into immediately recognizing that your ...


6

I think it is often a myth that people work better under pressure. Most people who say they work better under pressure have not really tried working under normal conditions. Even if a person thinks he works better under pressure, he may work better under normal conditions. That being said, pressure (more specifically time pressure) helps in providing closure ...


6

There are a couple of defence mechanisms that may fit the bill. Keep in mind that these defence mechanisms typically involve an unconscious denial of the problem - ie, they apply to people who don't admit to the problem in themselves. Projection: ... a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against unpleasant impulses by denying their ...


5

One answer is through turning off these messages or "tasks" via mindful awareness and focused attention on another task requiring much less cognitive load - like breathing. Look up Dr. Jeffery Schwartz's book "You Are Not Your Brain" for scientific data on this. Basically, latest scientific research shows that we can use our mind to stop the brain (or ...


5

I'm taking your question to be equivalent to "how does the human brain differ from a computer?". Indeed, it's well-established that humans outperform computers in a large number of contexts, but it's difficult to pinpoint exactly why this is. The best answer you'll get is one that outlines how the two computational systems differ. Let me start with three ...


4

This study found that REM sleep "enhances the integration of unassociated information for creative problem solving", and to an extent that surpasses the benefits of "quiet rest and non-REM sleep". try a google scholar search for 'psychology sleep incubation '. Interestingly, the experiment that yielded the first discovery of a neurotransmitter was ...


4

Probably both a combination of being more tired and fewer distractions. Most other people will be asleep during the night. Programming is adversely affected by context-switching, thus night-time with stimulant-enhanced soda is more likely to provide you with long periods of interruption free coding. Update: The above situation creates the conditions where ...


4

Critical thinking is an ill-defined concept in the cognitive sciences, so this question most likely has as many answers as there are measures of IQ and critical thinking. An accessible introduction to the literature is available here, with the general cognitive conception of critical thinking given as follows: ... the mental activities that are typically ...


4

You might be looking at cases of psychological projection, which is a method of denial in which people defend themselves from their own negative impulses by attributing them to others. In accordance with the theory, it is less a problem of 'defending' others from getting anywhere near the problem, and more an act of projecting the problem onto others, or ...


3

First of all, I agree that socialization and culture are most certainly the main reasons why today most famous inventors are male. If you are looking for sex differences that may explain further variance, studies have found that the variance in IQ (g) among males is greater than among females: Some studies have identified the degree of IQ variance as a ...


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