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Lecture 7

PSY270H1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 7: Functional Fixedness, Prefrontal Cortex, Frontal Lobe

Course Code
Susanne Ferber

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309: Lecture 8
The World of Problem-Solving:
+ defined as “the act of finding ways to deal with problems”
+ need to develop skills and strategies to identify problem and find solutions to solve it.
+ the moment where you suddenly know how to solve a problem
Problem-solving examples #1&2:
+ a difficult division problem.... no remainder
- easy problem = get rid of 0's so it would be 18/9
- we make simple questions more difficult than it needs to be
Altar window problem:
+ the circle represents the altar window and the area around it represents the space that's adjacent.
+ want to circle the area around the altar window... need to figure out how much paint I need
+ structurally-blind thinking – bringing in background knowledge to solve the problem, makes it
much harder to solve it. Such as geometry.
+ productive thinking is easier thinking, more simple. Like how children would think. Take the
problem as it is.
Counterfeit coin problem
+ know it's counterfeit cause it's lighter than the others
+ 1 in 8 coins is lighter.
+ determine which one... use of a scale. Can only use it twice.
There's a mental rigidity of how we think of a problem.
The importance of tool use:
+ functional fixedness
+ tendency to think about tools in a certain way.
+ ie: hammer used to pound things, such as hammer.
- difficulty using hammer in another way
Give someone a box of things to solve a problem
+ a box full of junk that might be useful or junk in a empty box – box is used
+ utilized – used for its purpose
+ pre-utilization – using objects for what is typically used for
+ no pre-utilization
+ takes adult more longer to solve problem if given a box full of junk – reminded of what an
object does makes it difficult to think what it can be used for
Measurement problem
+ use jars to obtain specific amount of fluid. No eyeballing to get an exact number of fluid into
the beaker.
+ Einstellung effect: continuing to use a strategy when a simpler way is more possible. Rigidity.
Previous experience.
- negative transfer – takes longer cause it's the extra amount of time to solve the problem by being
- strong but wrong tendency
+ realization of what the answer is – all pieces fit together
+ not all problems involve insight
+ ie: complicated multi-step math problem... doesn't operate them when there's 8 steps.
+ feeling of warmth vs knowing
- know you're gonna solve a math problem when as you go through the steps, you kind of get to
know more.
- go through each step, get closer to answer...
+ have absolutely no feeling to solve the problem – out of the blue, there's a ramp up of insight.
No hints. You know the answer to, or you don't. Binary shift.
Hints may lead to insight:
+ two-string problem
+ string in one side of room, one on other. Can't get it if you grab one string to grab the other.
+ productive solution and potential hint
The process of problem-solving:
+ progress monitoring theory: if trying to solve a problem with insight, think of a way to figure
out the problem and chip at it for awhile... monitoring progress. 5 mins later, am I getting
anywhere? After some time, depending on pain threshold, maybe considering of restructuring the
Brain scanner
+ when gain insight, check!
+ check which areas of brain lights up when gained insight
+ anterior cingulate – region of ACC, relationship to tip of the tongue phenomenon. Area of the
brain that lights up when needing help, difficulty monitor. Calling on other brain regions to help
solve the problem
+ activated regions in hippocampus.
+ little sleep → little insight
Mindfulness & Mindlessness:
+ Einstellung effect suggests that people may behave in mindless ways more than they should
+ mindful = think outside of the box
+ experiment: come into the room with bunch of objects on the desk. One of them is a blue rubber
dog chew toy. One condition: used as a rubber chew toy – suggesting what they could be used for,
but also leaving the door open for other possible uses. Then experimenter needed an eraser...
maybe use the toy as eraser because it's rubber.
- more likely to be thinking flexibly if things presented to you are flexible
+ conditional/unconditional descriptions → reduce mindlessness
Cognitive flexibility and the SAS:
+ flexibility... trying new things when current approach doesn’t work – brain that's important for
this is the left DLPFC
- part of prefrontal cortex that's dorsal and lateral
- important for working memory and manipulating information
- damage to it... when solving the problem and if it doesn't work, they have difficulty restructuring
the problem much more than a intact frontal lobe person
Components of Problem-solving:
+ have to understand the problem
+ devise a plan
+ execute the plan
+ examine the solution
^ steps of problem solving... avoid algorithms
+ AI have multiple problem routes etc. Can see the future of possible possibilities. Rich with
The acquisition of new rules to solve problems is incredibly important but it does result in a
tendency to persist using that rule even when simpler possibilities are present
AI is used to model and improve decision-making and recent advances have proven to be quite
+ a process of thought that yields a conclusion from percepts, thoughts or assertions
+ deductive reasoning: have couple of statements and if they're true, the following statements
should be true as well. Absolutely certain that it's true, following its premises.
+ inductive reasoning: it's not as solid; make an inference on how things work, prone to error.
+ relational integration:
Reasoning and relational integration (RI):
+ reasoning is the most advanced cognitive function
+ testing it and quantifying it is quite important.
+ deductive and inductive reasoning tasks
+ reason to pick the pattern.
Relational integration (RI) and fMRI:
+ Raven's progressive matrices
+ reasoning/relational integration relies heavily on frontal lobes – specific part is most
anterior/rostral part of frontal lobes.
+ when people with normal, prefrontal damage and temporal damage do reasoning tasks they're
okay. But when they require relational integration, things go downhill of how this relates to the
other thing.
+ When give relational integration tasks to people with prefrontal damage, they do awful in it.
Not a problem with memory. Damage to this region prevents the ability to compare one
relationship to another.
- more relationship it requires, prefrontal cortex... dies.
When doing harder problems, the integration vertical and horizontal components, you engage
in1/3rd specific region in frontal lobes – RLPFC
+ selectively activates and help put that information together to help make the right decision
+ dimension complex problems... RLPFC help to improve performance.
Task: you have a circle and a square... both have the same pattern; different shapes. Turn it into
the integration task. Pattern change on the bottom doesn't match.
+ activate rostral lateral regions – working memory. Ventral region, dorsal region... help process
individual pieces of information – how this relationship matches with that relationship. Very front
of the brain, last part of the frontal lobes to develop.
- In ventral region, item processing
- Dorsal region allows you to compare to square to circle
- Rostral lateral compare relationships. Need to abstract the shapes and all.
Kids are kinda impulsive
+ when children do reasoning tasks, their motor cortex activates for reasoning area. Press a button
before actually reasoning through it
For adults, reasoning area is more faster.
+ reasoning takes time to connect with the brain.
+ doesn't finish till mid twenties
+ as connections strengthen and mature, able to reason more quickly, give more informed