Epiphanies are all in the eyes: study
A person's eye is seen in this undated stock photo. (Maxriesgo/Shutterstock.com)
Published Monday, April 17, 2017 9:38PM EDT
We’ve all had an “aha” moment -- a time where you suddenly solve a problem or understand something that had previously eluded you. Also known as “epiphany learning,” a new study by researchers at The Ohio State University says that such moments can be predicted by monitoring a person’s eyes.
In “Computational modeling of epiphany learning,” which was published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Ohio State scientists explain how they used a simple computer game while tracking test subjects’ eyes to come to their conclusions.
"We could see our study participants figuring out the solution through their eye movements as they considered their options," study co-author and assistant professor of psychology and economics Ian Krajbich said in a written release. "We could predict they were about to have an epiphany before they even knew it was coming."
Krajbich worked with James Wei Chen on the study. Chen is a doctoral student in economics.
"Our work is novel in that we're looking at this other kind of learning that really has been neglected in past research," Chen said.
Epiphanies come suddenly, the researchers explain, and signs of them happening are all in the eyes.
"When your pupil dilates, we see that as evidence that you're paying close attention and learning," Krajbich said.
The researchers also say that that their findings suggest that to really have an epiphany, one must look within.
"One thing we can take away from this research is that it is better to think about a problem than to simply follow others," Krajbich said. "Those who paid more attention to their opponents tended to learn the wrong lesson."