I’ve previously posted about a study that showed students were more likely to be successful in tasks if they were described as “fun” (see Framing A Lesson As “Fun”). In that same post, I talked about how I describe various learning activities as “puzzles” when I introduce them to the class.

Today, the New York Times published a special section on puzzles, including an article headlined “Tracing the Spark of Creative Problem-Solving.” Here’s an excerpt:

In a just completed study, researchers at Northwestern University found that people were more likely to solve word puzzles with sudden insight when they were amused, having just seen a short comedy routine.

“What we think is happening,” said Mark Beeman, a neuroscientist who conducted the study with Karuna Subramaniam, a graduate student, “is that the humor, this positive mood, is lowering the brain’s threshold for detecting weaker or more remote connections” to solve puzzles.

It’s an interesting connection to that earlier study, and may help explain its conclusions.

As part of that special puzzle section, The Times also has an intriguing interactive on insight.