Incubation Effect: Problem Solving

18th August 2020by Partha Saradhi0

Are you a hard worker? Are you sitting in-front of your problem hours together? We don’t think you need to…

People sit on a problem for hours without any progress and get the solution just after you get up and take a break… Do you think they just got lucky or something? Nope, Here is a good news! There is a serious theory behind this, which you can use every time to make your life easy and look smart. It is the “Incubation Effect”

What is Incubation?
Incubation is defined as “ a process of unconscious recombination of thought elements that were stimulated through conscious work at one point in time, resulting in novel ideas at some later point in time.”

Incubation effect : an Illusion or a Solution?
Incubation effect as reported by many researchers and problem solvers as the disturbance required to the brain when it is focused on a particular task. Simply, it is the discovery of the solution to the problem when brain is not actually thinking about it. Some think of it as an illusion while others are simply making best use it.

It was reported that when one is working on a particular problem for some time and not getting any progress in it, if he takes a break and performs a completely random task; by the time he comes back to his initial task, there will be a potential solution sparked in his brain already.

What happens when we take a break?
In Problem solving, Our brain initially collects all the information required and forms them in to different data structures ready for thought process to take over. These data structures are created based on the schema from our Long term memory and are sent to our Short term memory, which is a static data storage unit. Schema are the repetitive patterns that we develop in our daily life, based on our understanding of the routine environment. As we start thinking about our solutions, all we got to use is the data structures that were initially processed. We can call these data structures as Ideas.

“Schema are the repetitive patterns that we develop in our daily life, based on our understanding of the routine environment”

The more we stick to these ideas from our past schema, the more hard it becomes to get new ideas. Since we are not in a position to generate new data structures (ideas) as our Short term memory is already blocked with previous ones, We get struck in our problem solving. Thus we need to break our past schema and look for new meaningful schema that serve the purpose of our problem. It is expected that this process of breaking the old schema

Using Incubation effect 
If we observe carefully, multi-taskers take a great advantage of this incubation effect and complete various different tasks with great ease while others struggle sitting on one single task for long times.

This is the reason why, as kids, we all are asked to leave the questions that doesn’t come to our mind and go for the easy ones first. If we look at the same question after a certain point of time, the answer to it suddenly strikes.

  • Understand the problem that need to be solved
  • Gather all the information required and refine it meaningfully.
  • Give an Initial quick strike of Ideas to understand how close you are to getting it solved.
  • Now, Leave the work area and focus on a completely random thing. It flushes out your previous ideas and empties your brain.
  • This random thing can be another very important thing too.
  • After some interval, make a fresh mind again and start your brainstorming again and validate your previous ideas and look to find new.
  • These intervals provide you enough relaxation and opportunity to your brain to think randomly.

This way you can complete multiple major tasks in less time with no stress at all. Hope this technique works for you. Let us know if you have any such interesting techniques to get things done.

Partha Saradhi

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