The use of environmental clues during incubation Academic Article uri icon


  • Three experiments tested the prediction that incubation effects are caused by interactions between activation and environmental clues. Participants worked on 20 experimental problems and then were informed that they would have a second chance to work on the problems. Half were told they might see clues before returning to the problems and were instructed to try to use such clues. Participants then had an incubation period during which they generated words from the letters of test words. The test words were either semantically related to experimental problem answers, the actual answers, or unrelated words. Finally, all participants again tried to solve the experimental problems. Resolution, calculated as the number of items solved during the second trial that were not solved initially, was measured. Participants who saw answers during incubation resolved more items than those who saw related words. In Experiment 3, participants receiving no instructions did not differ across clue conditions, whereas instructed participants who saw answers resolved more problems than those who received related words. Participants in the instructed and unrelated condition performed significantly worse than those in the instructed and answer condition. Incubation effects occurred only when participants who were shown answers were also given instructions. No support was found for the theory that incubation effects are caused solely by environmental clues and activation.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Dodds, R. A., Smith, S. M., & Ward, T. B.

citation count

  • 43

complete list of authors

  • Dodds, RA||Smith, SM||Ward, TB

publication date

  • October 2002