Psy270 Chapter 12 Problem Solving
*There are two different types of problem
1. Well-defined problems: Usually have a correct answer
2.Ill-defind problems: those that occur frequently in everyday life and that it doesn’t necessarily have a
-A well-defined problem is able to be solved using a set of procedures and/ or reasoning strategies
-an ill-defined problem does not have a clear path to its solution and we cannot use a predetermined set
Well- defined problems
-There are various strategies we can use to get to the one correct answer of a well defined problem
-an algorithms is a series of operations that can be applied repeatedly and will eventually reach the
-A heuristic is a general rule that is usually correct
-Heuristics make use of prior knowledge and past experience about how the world works
Problem Solving Heuristics
-Working forward: choose the alternative that appears to lead most directly to the goals
eg. I want a car I will get some money I will get a job I will drop out of school etc.
-Working backward: Start from the goal and move backwards to get to the initial state
eg. I want to be a clinical psychologist I need to get my PhD I need to get into grad school
I need to write my GREs etc.
-Generate and Test: Think of all the possible alternatives and try out each one ( trial and error)
eg. Make alist of things to eat that start with “c”
Cake, cookie, canoe
eg. I want a job
Work at a bank, become a teacher, learn to be a carpenter.
-Means-ends analysis: Break the problem into subproblems and minimize the distance between the
initial state and the goal state;
According to Newell and Simon, the person has to search the problem space to find a solution
e.g. I want a job I need a find job postings
I need a resume.
Problem Solving by Analogy
-We use the analogy approach to problem solving when we are faced with isomorphic problems.
-Isomorphic problems share structural features but often have different surface features
-The biggest obstacle we face when using the analogy approach is determining the real problem
-Duncker problem demonstrated the difficulty we have seeing the similarities isomorphic problems
Without a convergence problem only 10% solved he radiation problem
With a convergence problem 30% solved the radiation
With a convergence problem and self-generated solution 41% solved the radiation problem
With a convergence problem, solution and hint 75% solved the radiation problem . - Kurtz & Loewenstein (2007) demonstrated that the way we encode information influences how
easily we can use analogies to solve problem
Group 1: read convergence problem and solve radiation problem
-15% solved radiation problem
Group 2: Read 2 convergence problems and solve Radiation problem
-41% solved Radiation problem
Group 3: Solve Radiation and one convergence (Army) problem simultaneously
-27% solved both problems
-Comparison encourages people to create schemas of the problems
-This type of problems do not have a well-defined problem space
-Ill-defined problems require insight – the “aha” feeling
-Ill-defined problems often require diveregent thinking, whereas well-defined problems require
-Divergent thinking is related to creativity
Divergent thinking, creativity and testing
-Creativity is associated with divergent thinking- thinking that is open-ended involving a large
number of potential “solutions” and no “correct” answer.
-Divergent thinking can be contrasted with convergent thinking, which is thinking that works
towards finding a solution to a specific problem that usually has a correct answer.
-Tests of divergent thinking are used to distinguish clever, creative people
-Unusual uses test (Guilford, 1954): Name as many uses as you think of for: a) a
toothpick, b) brick, c) paperclip
-Remote Associates Test(RAT;Mednick, 1962): Find a fourth word that is associated with
the following 3 words rat-blue-cottage.
Is Insight Special?
-insight is the sudden realization of a problem’s solution
-GEstaltists belived insight is a special kind of thinking (productive thinking)
-Unconscious problem solving(cf. Incubation)
-Short-circuiting of regular problem solving strategies (cf. Release from mental set)
-Metcalfe and David Wiebe did an experiment designed to distuinguish between insight
problems and noninsight problems.
Provided evidence that ill-defined problems are solved by sudden solution
-Additionally, brain acitivty in prefrontal cortex (and ACC) differs between solved and unsolved
insight problems. Incubation
- sometimes when we can’t solve a problem the solution comes to us after a break when we’re not
thinking about it- this is incubation
-WE have a lot of anecdotal evidence for incubation but it often cannot be replicated in the lab
Problem solving for Gestalt psychologists was about
1. How people represent a problem in their mind
2. How solving a problem involves a reorganization or restructuring of this representation