Some ideas that we have feel mundane, but others are imbued with a sense of profundity. We propose that Aha! moments make an idea feel more true or valuable in order to aid quick and efficient decision-making, akin to a heuristic. To demonstrate where the heuristic may incur errors, we hypothesized that facts would appear more true if they were artificially accompanied by an Aha! moment elicited using an anagram task. In a preregistered experiment, we found that participants (n = 300) provided higher truth ratings for statements accompanied by solved anagrams even if the facts were false, and the effect was particularly pronounced when participants reported an Aha! experience (d = .629). Recent work suggests that feelings of insight usually accompany correct ideas. However, here we show that feelings of insight can be overgeneralized and bias how true an idea or fact appears, simply if it occurs in the temporal ‘neighbourhood’ of an Aha! moment. We raise the possibility that feelings of insight, epiphanies, and Aha! moments have a dark side, and discuss some circumstances where they may even inspire false beliefs and delusions, with potential clinical importance.
- Decision making
- Problem solving