Insights are “Aha!” moments, when you suddenly see the answer to a problem.

The insight process takes all the small bits of information your brain has gathered, looks at them without ruling anything out, and connects them together in a unique way to solve a problem. Insight is how you generate brilliant new ideas.

Insight is an understanding of relationships that sheds light on or helps solve a problem.


Anybody can have insights.

But because they happen in the big-picture right side of the brain — in an area dyslexics use more than fluent readers — you may be especially good at them.


The orange area in the right hemisphere is where we have flashes of insight. The insight is that bats hang upside down easier than girls do because they have less blood to flow to their heads.

Everybody uses an area in the big-picture right hemisphere to have insights.

Fluent readers use areas on the left side of the brain to store the meaning of a word. This means we don’t use the right sides of our brains as much.

Fluent readers store words on the left hemisphere.

Dyslexic readers use the right side of your brain more.

Dyslexic reader realizing that bats can hang upside down longer than girls because they have less blood rushing to their heads. Dyslexics may have more insights because they use the right side more.

Because your brains are used to working on the right side as well as the left, those paths work well. Plus, when one area is stimulated, other areas around it are stimulated, too!


One place you see insights a lot are in jokes.

How do you get a square root?
Put a tree in a square pot. – Jay Leno

“Where do you want this big roll of bubble wrap?” I asked my boss.
“Just pop it in the corner,” he said.
It took me three hours.

If at first you don’t succeed, don’t try skydiving. – Jay Leno

If can be clergymen defrocked, doesn’t it follow that electricians can be delighted, musicians denoted, cowboys deranged, models deposed, tree surgeons debarked, and dry cleaners depressed?


Insights leap over a lot of in-between stuff instead of going step by step. Because of that, it’s hard to explain exactly how the insight thought process works.

But lately, researchers have begun to recognize the steps in the insight process:

Left BrainRight Brain
1. You focus your mind on the problem, studying it and gathering facts, trying to put the pieces together logically

2.You put the problem down, and stop trying to solve it. Your mind relaxes, stills, and begins to wander.
3. Your mind begins to put ideas together in a new and creative way. It rotates the problem and compares it to other information that you’ve absorbed from all sources.
When an interesting connection is made,cells all over the brain light up. “Eureka!”

The insight process takes all the information you’ve learned from family, friends, school, TV, books – wherever – and sees what might work. It doesn’t rule out any combination of ideas as wrong or too strange. Anything is possible.

Flashes of insight happen when your mind is still or bored — you’re in the shower, waking up or drifting off to sleep, riding in the car, walking the dog. It’s not so good if your mind wanders when you’re supposed to be paying attention in class, but it happens. The point is that relaxation is important – you can’t hurry or force insight. In fact, concentrating hard slows mental creativity and uses up brain energy.

But insights are where great discoveries come from!

Archimedes had his “Eureka!” moment figuring out that the same volume of water as his body moved out of the way when he sat in his bath; Isaac Newton when he realized that there was something pulling down on everything, all the time, everywhere, while sitting under a tree watching fruit fall; yours might have been when you realized that if you tip the couch on its end, it will fit through the door. We all have these brilliant moments when the world shifts, and we see a new way forward. But dyselxics may have more of them.


Because it happens when the brain is relatively still, the insight process looks like daydreaming. But it produces awesome new ideas.


Still, there are some problems with insights.

● It takes time to build up enough knowledge to have insights. This is why you go to school — to gain knowledge to draw on.
● Working out all these relationships between bits of knowledge to produce insights starts as a slow and fuzzy process.
● You can’t control when the insights will come.
● Insights might never come at all.
● Insights could be brilliant, but still be wrong.
But once the insight process gets going, insights gallop along instead of walking. Insights often come faster than others can keep up.


Beilock, Sian. Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal about Getting It Right When You Have To. 1st Free Press hardcover ed. New York: Free Press, 2010.

Eide, Brock, and Fernette Eide. The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain. New York: Hudson Street Press, 2011.

Kounios, John, and Mark Beeman. “The Aha! Moment: The Cognitive Neuroscience of Insight.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 18, no. 4 (August 1, 2009): 210–16.

———. The Eureka Factor: Aha Moments, Creative Insight, and the Brain. First edition. New York: Random House, 2015.

Taylor, Jill Bolte. My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey. First edition. New York: Penguin Books, 2016.

Wolf, Maryanne. Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. 1st ed. New York, N.Y: Harper, 2007.

Zimmer, Carl. “You’re a Dim Bulb (And I Mean That in the Best Possible Way).” The Loom. DISCOVER Magazine, March 23, 2006.

Published by Amy Law

Amy Law is a science geek. She feels about science the way some people feel about music, or art, or sports – a total and complete emotional connection. She thinks in science. For Amy, there’s nothing better than helping people see the beauty of science as she does. She loves to untangle a complicated subject into its parts, explaining it so that anybody can understand what’s happening. Let her show you her world...


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