There is nothing more satisfying than finally working out the answer to that problem you’ve been struggling with for weeks.
But what would life be like if we knew when a mental breakthrough was about to happen? We’d probably get a lot more done to be honest.
Scientists from Ohio State University have now said they are able to accurately predict when humans are about to have a ‘learning epiphany’ before we even know we’re going to have it ourselves.
And it’s not because they’ve got a magical crystal ball hiding in their laboratory.
The study has shown that our eyes are a complete giveaway when it comes to having a moment of sudden insight in those ‘aha moments’.
Using eye-tracking and pupil dilation technology, while participants played a strategy computer game, the team were able to pinpoint the exact second when they realised how they could win.
Ian Krajbich, co-author of the study, said: “We could see our study participants figuring out the solution through their eye movements as they considered their options.
“We could predict they were about to have an epiphany before they even knew it was coming.”
For the study 59 students played a game against an unseen opponent, while being closely monitored by an eye-tracker, which could tell which numbers they were looking at during play.
The results showed that about 42% of players had an epiphany at some point and committed to playing zero.
Another 37% committed to a number other that zero, suggesting they didn’t learn the right lesson. The remaining 20% never committed to a number.
“There’s a sudden change in their behavior. They are choosing other numbers and then all of a sudden they switch to choosing only zero,” Krajbich said.
“That’s a hallmark of epiphany learning.”