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Blog: The Science of AHA! Moments

While we have marked aha! moments as a lightbulb over the head, a finger in the air, or a gasp, you might be surprised to know that moment is more than a feeling. There is research into that moment, and this blog post will share that through the lens of tutors working with adults.

Edward Bowden with the University of Wisconsin Parkside. He and a team of neuroscientist set out to explain aha moments using EEG monitors and fMRI machines. What they discovered was that in the case of aha! moments, there is a brief burst of gamma rays that doesn’t happen when using logical analysis. That moment is what gives us that lightbulb feeling! 

These things happen below the conscious level. However, that strong feeling can be very useful in supporting adult learning. You may already know that adults can not learn new things in 1 exposure, unless there is strong emotion attached. The aha moment can serve as the emotion that can support one trial learning.

3 Types Of AHA! Moments

Shower Moments – As we are working to solve problems, our left hemisphere often overcrowds the creative right hemisphere. However, when we quiet our left hemisphere, the right hemisphere has an opportunity to pop it’s idea out there. These often happen while we are running, taking a shower, or working a mindless puzzle. 

Combination Moments – During these moments, your right hemisphere has to connect multiple concepts to create an idea. As it works through those connections, it becomes activated once those connections are made, causing an aha moment.

Trigger Moments – In this case, something in the environment sparks an association in the subconscious mind. 

Want to learn more? Check out these articles 


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