Einstellung in the wild

Have you ever noticed how your thinking has changed whilst working at something? I recently had an experience where I clearly noticed how my way of thinking and performance correlated. It has to do with what Prof. Kahneman calls System 1 and System 2 thinking (Also known as focused and diffuse thinking).

I had an problem solving block - einstellung.


I have recently begun uploading videos of me playing tin whistle. I have no note sheets whatsoever for these songs - everything I learn comes from memory (and some listening to the actual songs while learning).

In this particular example I had begun learning the song approximately 3 hours earlier. When the time to record the video came I had a constant block - I failed different parts for each time I tried. One time I felt like I had it - and I was disturbed. I became mad and threw the flute away.

I went for lunch.

Here is the magical thing. On the first try after lunch I nailed it.

This is because that brief pause of approx. 20 minutes caused the previous 3 hours practice to sink in; to rewire the brain, to connect to the diffuse mode of thinking.

  • Take a break if you have been stuck too long
  • Spaced repetition is holy
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