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Chapter 8

PSYC 1001 Chapter Notes - Chapter 8: Representativeness Heuristic, Belief Perseverance, Availability Heuristic

Course Code
PSYC 1001
Jennifer Pettalia

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Chapter 8 – Thought (pg.365- 386)
Problem Solving
Active efforts to discover what must be done to achieve a goal that is not readily
1. problem presents itself
2. plan a potential solution
3. execute said solution
4. check results
Types of Problems (Jim Greeno – 1978)
Problems of inducing structure – requires people to discover the relationships among
numbers, words, symbols, and ideas.
oYou must make connections between things in order to solve the problem
oEx: analogy problem and series completion problem
Problems of arrangement – requires people to arrange parts of the problem in a way that
satisfies some criterion. The parts can usually be arranged in many ways, but only one or
a few of the arrangements form a solution.
oInsight – sudden discovery of the correct solution following incorrect attempts
based primarily on trial and error
oEx: string problem and the anagrams
Problems of transformations – require people to carry out a sequence of transformations
in order to reach a specific goal.
oYou must carry out a planned sequence step to solve the problem
oYou must re-arrange things to solve the problem
oEx: hobbits and orcs problem and water jar problem
Well-defined problem
oInformation is clearly provided
oGoal is stated
oConstraints are specific
Ill-defined problem
oOne of the above is vague or undefined
Barriers to Problem Solving
Irrelevant Information – people tend to want to incorporate all information into the
oIrrelevant information can distract from the solution
oExample: In the Thompson family, there are 5 brothers, and each brother has one
sister. If you count Mrs. Thompson, how many females are there in the Thompson
family? -2-
oParticularly prone to focusing on numerical/quantitative information regardless of
whether it is relevant or not
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Functional Fixedness – the tendency to perceive an item only in terms of its most
common use; inability to think outside the box.
oAdults are more vulnerable to this because children have less knowledge about
the conventional uses of various objects
oEx: screwdriver – turning screws & prying things open; hard time viewing it as
Mental Set – exists when people persist in using problem-solving strategies that have
worked in the past.
o“fresh eyes” are sometimes helpful
oExample – opening a door (pull/push)
Unnecessary Constraints – putting limitations on the solution to a problem that inhibit
your ability to solve the problem.  Restrictions that you impose on the solution to a
problem that do not need to be imposed.
oEx: “nine-dot problem” – without lifting your pencil, draw no more than 4 lines
that cross through all 9 dots. Solution: you can draw outside the box
Problem Space – the set of possible pathways to a solution considered by the problem
Approaches / Strategies for Problem Solving
Trial & Error – involves trying possible solutions and discarding those that are in error
until one works.
Algorithm – a methodical, step-by-step procedure for trying all possible alternatives in
searching for a solution to a problem.
oEx: to solve an anagram, write out all possible arrangements of the letters until
you reach an answer. It guarantees that once can eventually find a solution
Heuristics – a guiding principle or “rule of thumb” used in solving problems or making
decisions. (Shortcuts)
oWill cut down the answers
oExamples - Forming subgoals, working backwards. Searching for analogies,
changing the representation of the problem.
Forming Subgoals - intermediate steps toward the solution. Example: Tower of Hanoi
Working Backward – some problems are easiest to solve when you start with the end goal
and work backward. Example: lily pond problem
Searching for Analogies – relating the current problem to a previous problem–solution set
Example: ‘You are asked to make apple juice, but you have never made it before.
Perhaps you can use your preference experience of making orange juice?
Changing your Perspective – changing the representation of the problem
oConsider time, distance, visual imagery, etc.
Take a Break – you may see the problem in a different light
oIncubation effect – occurs when new solutions surface for a previously unsolved
problem after a period of not consciously thinking about the problem.
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