Insight Learning

Stephanie DiVito, Chris Clause
  • Author
    Stephanie DiVito

    Stephanie is a graduate from Rutgers University-Camden with a master's degree in English and teacher certification. She is certified to teach elementary school (K-6) and students with disabilities (P-12). She has been a teacher for three years.

  • Instructor
    Chris Clause

    Chris is an educator with a background in psychology and counseling. He also holds a PhD in public affairs, and has worked as a counselor and teacher for community college students for more than 10 years.

Understand what insight learning is. Learn the definition of insight learning. Know more about insight learning with the help of interesting insight learning examples. Updated: 01/08/2022

Table of Contents


What is Insight Learning?

Insight learning is a sudden realization of a solution to a problem. Because of its suddenness, insight learning is different from trial-and-error learning, which requires more careful experimentation to arrive at a solution. An example of this could be hearing a song on the radio and identifying the artist by the sound of his or her voice.

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  • 0:01 Theory Development
  • 1:25 Insight Learning Definition
  • 2:26 Examples
  • 3:40 Lesson Summary
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History of Insight Learning

Insight learning derived from an experiment conducted by Wolfgang Kohler. Kohler placed a banana outside of the cage of a hungry chimpanzee. He gave the chimpanzee two sticks to try to retrieve the banana. The chimpanzee was unsuccessful using both sticks. He tried to use one stick to push the other towards the banana. After seemingly giving up, the chimpanzee accidently joined the sticks together and used the new, longer stick to retrieve the banana. This study's demonstration of insight learning has been called into question because the chimpanzee accidently joined the sticks together.

The Four Stages of Insight Learning

Insight learning is a process that has four stages. These four stages are preparation, incubation, insight, and verification. Each phase of insight learning can be thought of as a part of a story.

Insight Learning Diagramed by Freytag


The first stage, or the introduction of insight learning is the preparation phase. In the preparation phase, the problem is introduced, and the subject has the information and materials laid out in front of him or her. The subject begins processing the stimuli in front of him or her and making connections. It is important to note that no solution has been reached in this phase and the subject may experience frustration. This is similar to how the introduction of a story gets the reader familiar with its setting, characters, and conflict. When Kohler placed the banana outside the cage and gave him the two sticks, this demonstrated the preparation phase of insight learning.


The second stage, or rising action of insight learning is the incubation phase. During the incubation phase, the subject has seemingly given up on the problem. However, the brain is still thinking about the problem unconsciously. In a story, the rising action is the point in the story where the events taking place lead up to the turning point. This is similar to the incubation phase because the brain is unconsciously analyzing the problem working toward an "aha" moment, or turning point. When the chimpanzee seemingly gave up on trying to obtain the banana, this demonstrated the incubation phase of insight learning.


The third, and turning point of insight learning is the insight phase. The insight phase is when the subject has a breakthrough moment in solving the problem. This can also be called an "aha" moment or an epiphany. This is similar to a story's turning point because it is the point where there is a change from the original starting point. The subject does all the work in problem-solving to reach this point. When the chimpanzee accidentally puts the sticks together, he comes to the realization that he can retrieve the banana with this new combined stick. This is the insight phase of insight learning.


The final stage or resolution of insight learning is the verification phase. The verification phase is when the subject tests the theory generated through the insight phase to see if the solution reached will work. In other words, the subject verifies the solution to see if it works. The verification phase is like the solution of the story because it is the point where the problem is resolved or the case is closed.

When the chimpanzee uses the new combined stick to retrieve the banana to finally solve the problem, this is the verification phase.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is an example of insight learning?

Hearing a song on the radio for the first time, and figuring out the artist singing the song based on the sound of his or her voice.

Looking for one's keys, and finding them after remember the last place he or she had them.

A detective solving a case after analyzing the evidence closely.

A group of students having an epiphany after seeing no results in a science experiment.

What is insight learning?

The sudden realization about a solution to a problem. This is not to be confused with trial and error learning where more careful experimentation is involved.

What are the 4 stages of insight learning?

The four stages of insight learning are preparation, incubation, insight, and verification.

Preparation- the introduction to the problem as well as the materials needed to solve the problem.

Incubation- the subject gives up while still subconsciously thinking about the problem.

Insight- the subject reaches a breakthrough about the answer to the problem.

Verification- the subject tests the theory from the breakthrough to see if the problem can be solved.

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