Why Learning Theories Give Us Aha Moments & How It Work

8 months ago, when I was at the airport and waiting for the boarding time, I decided to buy the book that completely changes my life. The book is called Thinking fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman. That decision affects many aspects of my life, and eventually, influence me to make this particular blog.

Since the day I read that book, I know that I love psychology and behavioral economics. So in the next couple of months, I read as many articles and books, and watch countless of talk about psychology and behavioral economics as I can. Since then, my knowledge about concepts and theories really expands. But couple days ago, I start to realize that sometimes, the thing that I like, is not necessarily the knowledge that I learn, but the aha moments that I got from knowing those theories and concepts.

There are a couple of reasons. First, is the satisfaction of the aha moment itself that I got when understanding those concepts and insights. When I read books about social science in general, I got countless of aha moments that really excite me. In the article that wrote by Havard Medical School claims that “the reward that the “aha!” brings. When the punch line hits home, your heart rate rises, you jiggle with mirth, and your brain releases “feel good” neurotransmitters: dopamine, serotonin, and an array of endorphins”. So first thing, the aha itself is satisfying, so that’s normal for your brain to seeks more. Now the next big question is how it works? Why and how we get aha moments? First, let me tell you my own perspective and point of view about concepts and theories.

For me, concepts are works just like the connector of dots in “connect the dots” sheet when we are kids. Let’s take a look at this picture and please guess what shape it looks like.


Now maybe some of you know, some of you don’t know what it is. There are 3 possible responses =

  1. Exactly knows what the drawing will look like even though the dots are not yet connected (aha happens before the dots are connected).
  2. Have no ideas what the drawing will look like (no aha moment)
  3. Know the shape when the dots are connected but realize it after connecting all dots and become the full picture or realize it when the dots are not entirely connected.

Let me gives you a simple example. If a 5-year old that loves car given a car shaped “connect the dot” sheet, he definitely will know what the shape is. Because he already masters and know the constructive and silhouette looks of a car. So he can conclude that the picture is a car, even though the dots aren’t connected yet. But when a 5-year-old given a printer shaped sheet and even after he connected all the dots, he probably still doesn’t get the aha moment, just because he doesn’t know what a printer is.

As you can see, there are 2 outcomes that give you the aha moments. When you know exactly what the shape is even when the dots are unconnected, and the aha moment that you get when you connecting the dots or after connecting the dots.

This example is similar to the mechanism of concepts and theories. Concepts could either give you the ideas and definitions that you never know (in my case, stuff like physics and absolute sciences) or it could give you the aha moments. So at this point, we can conclude that concept/theories are the connectors of the dots.

So, with the given premise, the more concepts and theories that you had learned the clearer the picture gonna be. But what picture? It depends on the field you are focusing. For me, it’s social science in general. That’s why when someone gives me an absolute science (physics, biology, chemistry) connect the dots sheet (metaphor), I will have no idea about the picture. But if someone gives me a social science connect the dots sheet (another metaphor), there is more possibility that I will know the shape or at least it will be easier for me to figure out the shape.

So to end this post, I will end with my own definition of aha moment that we talked about. Which is “when the data or schema that you learned previously (based on your own observations and research) clicks or match with the conclusive sentences that explain everything (theories and concepts) about the data that you already know.”

Thank you for reading this post. If you have anything in mind, a question, or everything, please tell us in the comment box below!


Fisher, S. (n.d.). 53 Free Connect-the-Dots Worksheets for Kids. Retrieved from https://www.thebalance.com/connect-dots-worksheets-1357606

Click to access HMS_OTB_Spring10_Vol16_No2.pdf

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