Problems solving- Definition
Early 1900s: Associationists explained problem-solving in terms of finding and strengthening stimulus-response
patterns which would deliver solutions (or not): reproductive solutions.
• 1940s: Gestalt psychologists studied productive problem-solving, believed solution involved identifying the appropriate problem structure for a problem.
• Neither approach had much place for cognitive activity.
• Changed by work of Herbert Simon in 1970s.
According to Mayer, problem solving is, "cognitive processing directed at transforming a given situation into a goal situation when no obvious method of solution is available to the problem solver. This definition suggests that there are three major aspects to problem solving:
It is purposeful (i.e., goal directed)
It involves cognitive rather than automatic processes.
A problem only exists when someone lacks the relevant knowledge to produce an immediate solution. Thus, a problem for most people (e.g., a mathematical calculation) may not be so for someone with relevant expertise (e.g., a professional mathematician).
Problem solving refers to the thinking we do in order to answer a complex question or to figure out how to resolve an unfavorable situation.
Strategies for arriving at solutions include: Trial and error, algorithm, heuristic, and Insight.
Trial and error involves trying various possible solutions, and if that fails, trying others.
An algorithm is a step by step strategy for solving a problem, methodically leading to a specific solution.
A heuristic is a short-cut, step-saving thinking strategy or principle which generates a solution quickly (but possibly in error).
Insight refers to a sudden realization, a leap forward in thinking, that leads to a solution.
The most basic definition is “A problem is any given situation that differs from a desired goal”. This definition is very useful for discussing problem solving in terms of evolutionary adaptation, as it allows to understand every aspect of (human or animal) life as a problem. This includes issues like finding food in harsh winters, remembering where you left your provisions, making decisions about which way to go, learning, repeating and varying all kinds of complex movements, and so on.
Problem-solving is a mental process that involves discovering, analyzing and solving problems. The ultimate goal of problem-solving is to overcome obstacles and find a solution that best resolves the issue.
The Problem-Solving Cycle
The problem-solving cycle includes: problem identification, problem definition, strategy formulation, organization of information, allocation of resources, monitoring, and evaluation (shown in Figure 11.2).
Following is a description of each part of the problem-solving cycle.
1. Problem identification: Do we actually have a problem?
2. Problem definition and representation: What exactly is our problem?
3. Strategy formulation: How can we solve the problem? The strategy may involve analysis—breaking down the whole of a complex problem into manageable elements.
Instead, or perhaps in addition, it may involve the complementary process of synthesis—putting together various elements to arrange them into something useful.
Another pair of complementary strategies involves divergent and convergent thinking. In divergent thinking, you try to generate a diverse assortment of possible alternative solutions to a problem. Once you have considered a variety of possibilities, however, you must engage in convergent thinking to narrow down the multiple possibilities to converge on a single best answer.
4. Organization of information: How do the various pieces of information in the problem fit together?
5. Resource allocation: How much time, effort, money, etc., should I put into this problem?
6. Monitoring: Am I on track as I proceed to solve the problem?
7. Evaluation: Did I solve the problem correctly?