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Chapter 10

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PSYC 213
Jelena Ristic

Cognitive Psych CHAPTER 10: PROBLEM-SOLVING 10.1 – Insight Problems and the Gestalt Theory of Thinking  Gestalt: Form or configuration. o Consciousness doesn’t consist of one event after another but tends to be organized into a coherent whole, or Gestalt.  Gestalt switch: A sudden change in the way info is organized. o Can occur in response to verbal material.  Insight problem: A problem that requires a restructuring of the way in which it is represented before it can be solved. o Doesn’t require any additional info. 10.1.1 – Kohler and the Mentality of Apes  Kohler studied the process of problem-solving in chimpanzees. o One chimpanzee was in a cage with fruit outside of the cage and beyond his reach.  There was a small stick inside the cage, and a longer stick outside.  He tried to use the short stick to get the fruit but was unsuccessful.  Insight came to the chimpanzee once he laid his eyes on the long stick  he got it and used it to get the fruit. o Insight to Kohler is the ability to understand the way in which the parts of a situation are related to one another.  It occurs spontaneously and suddenly. All-or-none = the chimpanzee either saw the solution or he didn’t. 10.1.2 – Wertheimer and Productive Thinking  Productive Thinking: Thinking that occurs as a result of having a grasp of the general principles that apply in the particular situation in which you find yourself.  Structurally blind thinking: The tendency to reproduce thinking appropriate for other situations, but not for the current situation.  The tendency to apply previous learning blindly can sometimes lead you to get the right answer without understanding WHY it is right. 10.1.3 – Duncker and Functional Fixedness  Analysis of the situation: Determining what functions the objects in the situation have and how they can be used to solve the problem.  Functionally fixed: Being unable to see that a particular object could perform the function needed to solve a problem; also, the tendency for people to think about objects based on the function for which they were designed. 10.1.4 – Maier and the Concept of Direction  Maier’s 9 dot problem (left) and solution (right): Connect all the dots with 4 lines without lifting the pen off the paper. o The solution requires you to think outside of the box  draw lines outside the area of the square. o We get fixated by the unnecessary assumption that we can only draw lines within the square. o Hint: A hint must be consistent with the direction that the person’s thinking is taking, and cannot be useful unless it responds to a difficulty that the person has already experienced.  That’s why some participants couldn’t solve the problem even after they got a hint.  Maier’s 2-string problem: you need to tie the 2 strings together but they are too far apart to be held at the same time. Solution: swing one of them. o The hint given was when Maier brushed past one of the strings, setting it swinging. o The solution suddenly appeared and participants were not likely to attribute the solution to the hint = the insightful experience can mask the hint that gave rise to it. 10.1.5 - Insight Is Involuntary  One characteristic of insight problems: the solution appears suddenly.  Problems solved without insight are solved gradually. o Can tell that you are getting closer to the solution = getting warm.  Feeling of warmth: The feeling people might have as they approach the solution to a problem. o This occurs because non-insight problems are solved step by step. o For insight problems, warmth levels stay roughly the same until the solution is reached. o Non-insight problems: feeling of warmth rises gradually.  Feeling of knowing: The feeling a person has about being able to solve a particular problem. o Non-insight problem  accurate prediction about ability to solve the problem. o Insight problem  inaccurate prediction.  These 2 feelings are examples of metacognition (how accurately you can assess your own cognitive processes). 10.2 – Current Approaches to Insight Problems 10.2.1 – Progress Monitoring Theory  Progress monitoring theory: Participants monitor their progress on a problem, and when they reach an impasse (not knowing what the solution is) then they are open to an insightful solution. o Participants try the most straight-forward route to a solution  fail  consider alternative routes = open to an insightful solution.  Study done with the 9-dot problem. o One group was given a line connection 3 dots horizontally and extending out of the square’s area. o Another group was given a diagonal line that did NOT extend out of the square.  This hint was more helpful than the first one!  Why? It lead participants to reach the impasse more quickly:  Given the diagonal line they can more easily see that if they follow a strategy connecting the most dots possible with each line, then they will be out of moves before reaching the solution.  This realization prompts the participant to consider alternative strategies. 10.2.2 – Representational Change Theory  Representational change theory: Insight requires a change in the way the participant represents the problem.  There are two processes central to the achieving of representational change: o 1) Constraint relaxation: An aspect of representational change theory: the removal of assumptions that are blocking problem solution. o 2) Chunk decomposition: An aspect of representational change theory: parts of the problem are seen as belonging together; ‘chunks’ are separated and thought about independently. 10.2.3 – Insight and the Brain  Anterior cingulated cortex (ACC): detects conflicting response tendencies and facilitates the process whereby we become aware of such conflicts. o The Aha! experience that we get after solving a riddle (or hearing the solution) corresponds to activation in the ACC.  This is an insightful experience.  Hippocampus: consolidates memories. o Role in insight: fixes insightful experiences into long-term memory.  Evolutionarily, this enhances survival. 10.2.4 – Insight and Sleep  ‘Sleeping on it’ is an excellent strategy to solve problems.  Number reduction task: (I don’t think we need to understand this task so it’s in grey) o You’re given a list of 8 digits, and the list contains only the digits 1, 4, and 9. You’re also given the first digit of the new list of 8 digits that you’ll generate below the first:  1 1 4 4 9 4 9 4  1 o Your task is to find the eighth digit. To do this, you start by generating another 7 digits, underneath the first list, by applying the following rules from left to right: o To generate the next digit, compare the new digit to the left with the old digit above and to the right. Apply one of these two rules: if those two digits are the same, then write down that same digit; if they are different, then write down the third digit (that’s different from both of them). You’d be comparing 1 with 1, so you’d get 1 again:  1 1 4 4 9 4 9 4  1 1 o But the third time, you’re comparing 1 with 4 so the third new digit is 9. To get the fourth new digit, you’d be comparing 9 with 4, so the fifth new digit is 1, etc. o What the subjects didn’t know is that all of these number strings were created in such a way that the last three new digits mirrored the previous three. (This is the insight). o So once you discover that rule, you know that the third digit in the list–the second one that you write–is going to also be the final digit.  Three groups of participants were given training: o 1) Slept from 11pm-7am after the training o 2) Stayed awake from 11pm to 7am after the training. o 3) Stayed awake from 11am to 7pm after the training.  Most of those that slept on it (59%) produced insightful solutions.  The others  only 22%.  Conclusion: sleep promotes insight.  Hippocampus: o Strengthens memory traces quantitatively. o Catalyzes mental restructuring  sets the stage for the emergence of insight. 10.3 – Functional Fixedness and the Design of Tools  Tools we use usually have only one function (ex: stapler, lawnmower)  This makes us functionally fixed = unable to think of a use for an object other than its intended function.  5-yr old kids are much less functionally fixed than older kids.  Study: give 5, 6, and 7-yr olds a box. They need to figure out that they can use the box to stand on and not just as a container. o Pre-utilization condition: box is full of items. o No-pre-utilization condition: box is empty. o Results: 5 yr olds are equally fast regardless of the condition.  Older kids perform much worse under the pre-utilization condition because they assume that the box has only one function.  The Shuar people were studied because even as adults, they only get exposed to a small set of manufactured tools, most of which are low-tech. o Adults showed the same effect of pre-utilization as had the older kids of the box experiment.  Therefore, there may be a universal tendency for people to think about objects in the way in which they were designed to be used. 10.4 – The Flexibility-Rigidity Dimension  Water jar problems: o You are given 3 jars, labeled A, B, and C. o These jars have capacities of 21, 127, and 3 liters, respectively. o Problem: how can you use them to obtain a volume of 100 liters of water? o Solution: B minus A minus 2C.  Einstellung effect: Aka rigid set. This is the tendency to respond inflexibly in a problem situation.  Once participants were given several water jar problems that all had the s
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