When an epiphany strikes, it’s rare and fleeting. Something clicks in our heads, and what was once confusing is abruptly obvious, light, and even exciting.
Such moments are not strictly internal events, it turns out. Our eye motions and pupils can broadcast these “aha! ” moments, making it possible to predict epiphanies even before they arise, a new analyse found.
Scientists at Ohio State University conducted the research. They wanted to better understand what happens in people’s heads as they attain various types of decisions an area of analyse known as neuroeconomics.
In this fledgling field, researchers have tended to focus on how people respond to feedback and gradually, purposely adapt their reasoning as they discover. But few analyzes had looked at so-called epiphany learning.
“We had this intuition that there are situations where you don’t figure things over day it sort of comes to you all of a sudden, ” said Ian Krajbich, a co-author of the study and deputy prof of psychology and economics at Ohio State.
“There was a gap in what we know about that kind of discover, ” he said in an interview.
For the study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science , Krajbich and doctoral student James Wei Chen recruited 59 students.
Participants played a relatively simple play on personal computers against an unseen adversary. Beneath the screen, a camera monitored where the musician was looking on the computer and tracked their pupil dilation.
The screen demonstrated 11 numbers( 0 to 10) arranged in a circle like a rotary phone. In the game, each participant picked a number. The researchers then took the average of those two numbers and multiplied that by 0.9. Participants had to guess what the resulting number might be, and one adversary was deemed the winner.
If that gives people brain cramps, you’re in good company.
To win the game, it turns out, all participants had to do was guess a lower number than their opponent.
“If you think of it that way, the obvious strategy is to pick zero, because zero is always going to be the smallest number, ” Krajbich explained.
Participants played the game 30 times in a row, ever against a new opponent.
For 42 percentage of the participants, a light bulb flipped on at some level. Eye tracking data demonstrated a sudden change in their behavior. After choosing other numbers, their eyes remained fixated on the lowest numbers. These players no longer looked at their opponents’ number and instead studied the outcome of each play. As their strategy formed, their pupils dilated.
Soon after this, the students made a firm decision. They clicked a specific button that committed them to utilizing zero in every upcoming play. Participants didn’t mull over whether or not to click a particular button during multiple plays they only looked at it once, and pressed enter.
“That tells us they were building up confidence over day. They had no interest in committing until all of a sudden, they had that epiphany and hopped right to zero, ” Krajbich said.
About 37 percent of participants did commit to using the same number, but they didn’t pick zero, which suggests they didn’t actually learn the game-winning strategy, the study saw. The remaining 20 percentage never committed to a number, and likely required a drink afterward.
The study doesn’t is proof that some people have epiphanies while others don’t. Additional research and different types of plays and challenges are needed to answer those types of questions.
Krajbich said he and his research partners would like to devise determines where they could observe multiple epiphanies within the experiment, and focus more on what happens physically in those “aha! ” moments through brain imaging and other methods.
However, the early results do suggest that, in order to experience epiphany discover, “were supposed to” look inward and focus on our own strategy, rather than scrutinizing the moves of our opponents.
“One thing we can take away from such research is that it is better to think about a problem than to simply follow others, ” the prof said. “Those who paid more attention to their foes tended to learn the incorrect lesson.”
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