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week 4

Response to “The Eureka Hunt” by Jonah Lehrer

Scientists and Neuroscientists alike have been searching for a scientific explanation of insight, also known as the “Aha” moment for decades. The article “The Eureka Hut,” written by science journalist Jonah Lehrer, explores specific examples in history of insight occurring and various studies trying to derive its place of origin in the brain. Lehrer begins by telling the story of the “smoke jumper” Wag Dodge, who had his lifesaving moment of insight during the Mann Gulch fire of 1949. During a moment of desperation and necessity, Dodge devised a plan from mere insight to escape the deadly fire that was sure to engulf him. Lehrer describes this tale as being one of the many fundamental examples of insight that all share common features. If a moment of insight is to occur, there must first be a mental block present that can lead to a breakthrough. The moment also features a feeling of unwavering certainty, as if the person having a moment of insight “just knows” that the answer they have stumbled upon is correct. Cognitive neuroscientist, Mark Jung-Beeman, is one of the many scientists interested in the nature and explanation of insight. Jung-Beeman has conducted several studies searching for the source of insight in the right hemisphere of the brain. He studied subject’s brain activity by asking subjects to solve sets of puzzles by using analysis or by coming across an answer through insight. What Jung-Beeman found was that a large burst of brain activity on the surface of the right hemisphere coincided with a sudden insight. The prefrontal cortex then recognizes the insight received and confirms it as if the correct answer was present in the brain all along.

Jonah Lehrer accurately uses descriptions, examples, and scientific experimentation of insight to inform and educate his audience. By beginning the article with the tale of Wag Dodge, the reader is able to relate to the subject and connect science with everyday life. Lehrer includes the audience in the article by revealing ways in which to increase the likelihood of insight occurring, such as; taking warm showers, leaving a minute after you wake up to random thought, abstaining from drugs and caffeine intended to enhance concentration, over concentrating and producing, etc. Personally, I was convinced by Lehrer’s writing style and the message he conveyed in his article. The article was not unnecessarily cluttered with information about Jung-Beeman’s scientific study and included the right amount of description and explanation. By using such detailed descriptions of people, actions, and ideas, Lehrer was able to convey his own ideas and insights to the audience and easily entice the reader to keep reading. After reading and enjoying Lehrer’s article, I feel I have gained greater insight on what truly is insight.

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