The nonlinearity of pupil diameter fluctuations in an insight task as criteria for detecting children who solve the problem from those who do not

Sebastián Vásquez-Pinto, Diego Morales-Bader, Ralf F.A. Cox, Felipe Munoz-Rubke, Ramón D. Castillo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Insights, characterized by sudden discoveries following unsuccessful problem-solving attempts, are fascinating phenomena. Dynamic systems perspectives argue that insight arises from self-organizing perceptual and motor processes. Entropy and fractal scaling are potential markers for emerging new and effective solutions. This study investigated whether specific features associated with self-organization in dynamical systems can distinguish between individuals who succeed and those who fail in solving insight tasks. To achieve this, we analyzed pupillary diameter fluctuations of children aged 6 to 12 during the 8-coin task, a well-established insight task. The participants were divided into two groups: successful (n = 24) and unsuccessful (n = 43) task completion. Entropy, determinism, recurrence ratio, and the β scaling exponent were estimated using Recurrence Quantification and Power Spectrum Density analyses. The results indicated that the solver group exhibited more significant uncertainty and lower predictability in pupillary diameter fluctuations before finding the solution. Recurrence Quantification Analysis revealed changes that went unnoticed by mean and standard deviation measures. However, the β scaling exponent did not differentiate between the two groups. These findings suggest that entropy and determinism in pupillary diameter fluctuations can identify early differences in problem-solving success. Further research is needed to determine the exclusive role of perceptual and motor activity in generating insights and investigate these results’ generalizability to other tasks and populations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1129355
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 23-Jun-2023


  • 8-coin task
  • entropy
  • fractal scaling
  • insight problem solving
  • pupil diameter fluctuations
  • self-organization

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