Overcoming Fixation: The Role for Incubation and Inhibition
Koppel, Rebecca H.
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Storm and Angello (2010) demonstrated that the inhibitory mechanism underlying retrieval-induced forgetting benefited performance on the Remote Associates Task (RAT; Mednick, 1962) under fixated conditions. They attributed better creative problem solving to the successful inhibition of misleading associates. The current study examined whether an incubation period, defined as a break from conscious problem solving, moderates the relationship between retrieval-induced forgetting and RAT performance. To see how incubation affected this relationship, we provided half of the participants with an incubation period for the RAT problems and tested individual differences in retrieval-induced forgetting. Half of the participants solved each problem continuously for 60 seconds, replicating Storm and Angello. Participants who exhibited more retrieval-induced forgetting solved more problems in the first 30 seconds, and retrieval-induced forgetting continued to predict the proportion of newly solved problems in the final 30 seconds. We also added another condition, in which the other half of the participants solved each problem for 30 seconds, and received a break before seeing all of the problems again for another 30 seconds each. Although participants who exhibited more retrieval-induced forgetting solved more problems in the first 30 seconds (replicating Storm & Angello’s findings), retrieval-induced forgetting failed to predict the proportion of newly solved problems in the final 30 seconds. We theorize that incubation allows fixation to subside, thus reducing the need for the mechanism underlying retrieval-induced forgetting to help participants overcome fixation.