Thinking and Problem Solving

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					Problem Solving
    Chimps and Learning
   Chimps and Learning II
•Problem Solving
 refers to active efforts
 to discover what must
 be done to achieve a
 goal that is not readily
•What strategies do we
 use to solve

•What obstacles hinder
 our problem solving?
  Methods of Problem Solving
• Trial and Error – Thomas
  Edison tried thousands of light
  bulb filaments before
  stumbling upon the one that
 –No organization, no preparation
  – try everything and anything
  until something works
 Methods of Problem Solving

• Algorithm – a
  methodical, step-by-step,
  logical rule or procedure
  that guarantees solving a
  particular problem
–IE. How many words can you
 make out of the letters
 letter in each position,
 resulting in 907,200
 combinations, and then pick
 out the words that make
 sense. Step-by-step.
    Methods of Problem Solving
• Heuristics – a simple thinking
  strategy that often allows us to
  make judgments and solve
  problems efficiently by adding
  common sense shortcuts to
  step-by-step procedures;
  speedier, but more error-prone
  than algorithms
–How many words can you make
 out of the letters
 that no words start with YY, so
 eliminate all of those
 combinations, as well as all of
 the YG, YH, etc. You may miss
 some real words, but you get an
  Methods of Problem Solving
• Insight – a sudden and often
  novel realization of the solution to
  a problem.
  –You’re stuck on a problem for a
   long time, then suddenly the pieces
   just fall together and you perceive a
   solution – “AHA !!”
  Obstacles to Problem Solving

• Representative Heuristics –
  judging the likelihood of
  things in terms of how well
  they seem to represent, or
  match, particular concepts
  that we already have
–IE. You have a mental concept
 of college professors and short,
 slim, and intellectual. If
 someone tells you a story about
 a friend of theirs who is short,
 slim, and likes poetry, and then
 asks you if you think they are a
 professor or a truck driver,
 which do you say?
• IE. You’re a police officer, and a
  call just went out to be on the
  lookout for an unknown suspect
  that just robbed a bank. If your
  concept of bank robber is male,
  black, and clean shaven….in
  order to solve this problem you
  will look for suspects matching
  only this profile.
    Obstacles to Problem Solving
• Availability Heuristic – making our
  judgments based on the events
  that are most readily available in
  – Who to date next? Well, don’t date
   blondes because your last
   experience was a disaster. Where
   to go to dinner? Don’t go to The Inn
   because the last time you were
   there it was overcooked.
 Obstacles to Problem Solving

• Confirmation Bias – a
  tendency to search for
  answers and information
  that confirms one’s own
• A teacher believes that boys
  behave more badly than girls,
  so she watches over the boys
  more. At the end of the day,
  she has written more
  detentions for boys than for
  girls, confirming her original
 Obstacles to Problem Solving

• Fixation – only attempting to
  solve a problem from a single
 –The solutions that worked in the
  past (mental set) often work on
  new problems, and if they don’t,
  we get frustrated and give up.
 Obstacles to Problem Solving
• Functional Fixedness – the
  tendency to think of things only in
  terms of their usual functions
  –It’s raining and you don’t have an
   umbrella, but you could use the
   plastic bag in your car. You can’t
   get a screw loose without a
   screwdriver, but you could use a
  Obstacles to Problem Solving

• Overconfidence – the
  tendency to be more
  confident than correct –
  to overestimate the
  accuracy of one’s beliefs
  and judgments
  Obstacles to Problem Solving
• Belief Bias – the tendency for
  one’s pre-existing beliefs to
  distort logical reasoning

• Belief Perseverance – clinging
  to one’s initial conceptions,
  even after the bias has been
•When we think about
 solving a problem,
 how do we access
 applicable information
 in our memory in a
 useful manner?
•Concepts – a
 classification system
 based on common
 properties among
–IE. We have a mental concept
 of dogs based on their common
 physical traits of four legs, a tail,
 fur, and their bark. Dogs can
 then be broken down into large
 breed and small breeds. Large
 breed can then be broken down
 into herders, hunters, guard,
 etc. Herders can then be
 broken down into ……
          Fur, Four Legs, Tail, Bark

Large Breed                     Small Breed
Over 50 lbs.                    Under 50 lbs.
• Prototypes – a mental
  image or best example of
  each concept we have
 –We match new items to our
  mental prototypes in order to
  allow or disallow items into
  our concept groups
          Fur, Four Legs, Tail, Bark

Large Breed                     Small Breed
Over 50 lbs.                    Under 50 lbs.
•Our prototype of a “dog”
 is a Golden Retriever. A
 new animal we meet has
 four legs, a tail, fur,
 barks, etc……compared
 to our mental prototype
 of a “dog”, it must also be
 a “dog”

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