March 6th Lecture.docx

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22 Apr 2012
March 6th Lecture - Problem Solving
When we cannot immediately recall an answer from memory, we have a problem
Admitting that there is a problem at hand is a critical first step towards problem solving
Problem solving involves going beyond the given info and transforming it to get an answer to a
Reassess relationships between variables
Problem solving relies on many cognitive processes:
Attention - attending to aspects of problem that are most important
Memory - bringing to mind strategies and techniques that have worked in the past
Language - understanding and communicating the problem
Long thought to be a unique human ability
Koehler - chimpanzees using available resources to get to a not immediately reachable
banana - not only humans have problem solving abilities - non verbal
Problem solving cycle
Not a linear progression of steps - depend on context
7 general steps taken :
1. Problem identification - identifying that you have a problem can sometimes be a
difficult step
2. Problem definition - once identified, we need to define and represent the problem
well -what is the problem?- a critical step
3. Constructing a strategy - how do we go about solving problem ?
Analytic approach - breaking the problem into pieces - bottom up
Synthesis approach - putting various elements together - top down approach
Divergent thinking - generate a number of different ways of solving the problem
- all the possible ways
Convergent thinking - narrow down to plausible ways
4. Organization of info - once have strategy, need to organize info - may need to revisit
this step if it turns out that info wasn't organized properly the first time
5. Resource allocation - often time problem solving is constrained
Experts vs. Novices - large difference in resource allocation
Experts - more time to global aspects of problem (initial phases like
definition and strategy)
Novices - more time to local aspects
6. Monitoring - how are we doing ? Are the strategies successful ? - effective problem
solvers do not set to one path and wait until they get to a dead end
7. Evaluation - did we get it right? How was the solution? Did we use the right
strategies? - can figure out what works and what doesn't
Steps are dynamic and often we go back and forth through these steps
Once we get to resource allocation, may need to go back and redefine the problem
While monitoring, if something is not working, may need to go back and rethink the
Types of problems
Not a concrete list, but these are the types of problems that have been studied by cognitive
Your strategy in solving often depends on the problem
Two types of problems, depending on whether there is a clear path to the solution
1. Well-structured problems - have a clear path to the solution even though it may be
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