Abstract or Description
The discovery of a creative solution occasionally corresponds to the sudden attainment of a mental insight. Our purpose is to formally describe this phenomenon and the cognitive mechanisms that lead to it. The approach is based on the replicability of just such an insight which underlies the solution to a well known puzzle: the nine-dot puzzle. The insight coincides with the realization that the problem can only be solved when a spurious constraint is removed. Two experimental results are reported: one on the nine-dot puzzle and the other on an architectural sketch design problem. The sketch design problem was structured with several restricting frames of reference to create a situation analogous to the nine-dot puzzle. Subjects’ design behavior was analyzed to identify the mechanisms used in achieving the mental insights which allow designers to go beyond the implicit restrictions of these frames. A general model, called SMI-GI, of the mental insight based design and discovery process is described. This model foresees a computer system that can be used to simulate the mental insight mechanism and consequently lead to the systematic examination of this aspect of design creativity.