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Goldsmiths - University of London

It is magic! How impossible solutions prevent the discovery of obvious ones?

Thomas, C; Didierjean, A and Kuhn, Gustav. 2018. It is magic! How impossible solutions prevent the discovery of obvious ones? The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, ISSN 1747-0218 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

When confronted with an insight problem, some factors limit our capacity to discover the optimal solution. Previous research on problem solving has shown that the first idea that comes to participants’ minds can inhibit them from finding better alternative solutions. We used a magic trick to demonstrate that this mind fixing effect is more general than previously thought: a solution that participants knew to be incorrect and impossible inhibited the discovery of an easy alternative. We show that a simple exposure to an obvious false solution (e.g., the magician hides the card in the palm of his hand to secretly transfer it to his back pocket) can inhibit participants from finding the real secret of the trick (e.g., he used a duplicate card), even if the magician proves that this false solution is impossible (e.g., he shows his hand is empty). We discuss the psychological processes underlying this robust fixing effect.

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The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support
for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article:
Supported by Fyssen Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, 194
Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France.

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14 October 2017Accepted
1 January 2018Published

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Date Deposited:

16 Oct 2017 10:14

Last Modified:

14 Oct 2018 01:26

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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