A man has married 20 women in a small town. All of the women are still alive, and none of them is divorced. The man has broken no laws. Who is the man?
If you solved the question, the solution probably came to you in an incandescent flash: The man is a priest. Research led by Mark Beeman and John Kounios has identified where that flash probably came from. In the seconds before the insight appears, a brain area called the superior anterior temporal gyrus aSTG exhibits a sharp spike in activity. This region, located on the surface of the right hemisphere, excels at drawing together distantly related information, which is precisely what’s needed when working on a hard creative problem.Interestingly, Mr. Beeman and his colleagues have found that certain factors make people much more likely to have an insight, better able to detect the answers generated by the aSTG. For instance, exposing subjects to a short, humorous video—the scientists use a clip of Robin Williams doing stand-up—boosts the average success rate by about 20%.Alcohol also works.