Wolfgang Kohler

’s Experiment And Insight Learning Essay, Research Paper

Wolfgang Kohler’s Experiment and Insight Learning

Have you ever been trying to figure something out that you just can’t

piece together and then all of a sudden have it hit you? If you have, you’ve

experienced the type of learning called insight learning.

The term insight refers to solving a problem through understanding the

relationships various parts of a problem.

Wolfgang Kohler, a Gestalt psychologist who was born in 1887 and died

in 1967, used chimpanzees in the study of insight learning. Kohler who was born

in Revel, Estonia and moved to the United States in 1935, did pioneering studies

in the behavior of apes that showed the importance of perceptual organization

and insight in learning.

His groundbreaking experiment involved one of his chimpanzees, Sultan.

Sultan had learned to use a stick to rake in bananas outside of his cage. This

time Kohler placed the banana outside of the reach of just one stick and gave

Sultan two sticks that could be fitted together to make a single pole that was

long enough to reach the banana. After fiddling with the sticks for an hour or

so, Sultan happened to align the sticks and in a flash of sudden inspiration,

fitted the two sticks together and pulled in the banana. Kohler was impressed

by Sultan’s rapid ?perception of relationships? and used the term insight to

describe it. He noted that such insights are not learned gradually through

reinforced trials. They seemed to occur in a flash when the elements a problem

are set up appropriately.

In another experiment boxes were put in a room with a banana hanging

from the ceiling. The chimps found out that they could stack the boxes on top

of one another to reach the banana without being taught to do it.

It was also found that rats made cognitive maps, which are mental

representations or ?pictures? of the elements in a learning situation, of the

mazes that they were going through. Not surprisingly, the rats learned the way

quicker on a route in which reinforcement was available. I guess that just goes

to show you that when you’re interested in something, you will of retain the

information better and understand it too.

Here is a personal example of insight learning. One day I was playing a

game called The Seventh Guest was on my computer. It is a game with lots of

mind bending puzzles that can be very difficult. There was this on particular

puzzle I had been working on for hours and just couldn’t solve it, then all of a

sudden the answer hit me and I almost kicked myself when I figured out how

simple it was. This kind of thing happens to me all the time and I’m sure

everyone can think of at least one time when an answer to a problem just hit


It is difficult to explain these types of behavior in terms of

conditioning. It seems that we suddenly percieve the relationships between the

elements of our problems so that the solution occurs by insight. We seem to

have what Gestalt psychologists call the ?Aha! experience.?

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