The Psychology of Problem Solving

The Psychology of Problem Solving

The Psychology of Problem Solving

The Psychology of Problem Solving

Synopsis

Problems are a central part of human life. The Psychology of Problem Solving organizes in one volume much of what psychologists know about problem solving and the factors that contribute to its success or failure. There are chapters by leading experts in this field, including Miriam Bassok, Randall Engle, Anders Ericsson, Arthur Graesser, Keith Stanovich, Norbert Schwarz, and Barry Zimmerman, among others. The Psychology of Problem Solving is divided into four parts. Following an introduction that reviews the nature of problems and the history and methods of the field, Part II focuses on individual differences in, and the influence of, the abilities and skills that humans bring to problem situations. Part III examines motivational and emotional states and cognitive strategies that influence problem solving performance, while Part IV summarizes and integrates the various views of problem solving proposed in the preceding chapters.

Excerpt

Almost everything in life is a problem. Even when we go on vacations to escape our problems, we quickly discover that vacations merely bring problems that differ in kind or magnitude from the ones of daily living. In addition, we often find that the solution to one problem becomes the basis of the next one. For example, closing on a house solves the problem of buying a house, but usually means the initiation of a whole new set of problems pertaining to home ownership.

Because problems are a central part of human life, it is important to understand the nature of problem solving and the sources that can make it difficult. When people have problems, how do they identify, define, and solve them? When and why do they succeed at problem solving and when and why do they fail? How can problem-solving performance be improved?

Our goal for this book is to organize in one volume what psychologists know about problem solving and the factors that contribute to its success or failure. To accomplish this goal, we gave each of our contributors the following problem: “Use your area of expertise to determine what makes problem solving difficult.” By examining why problem solving is often difficult for people, we hope to discover how to make it easier and more productive. However, the book's focus is not a discouraging one that emphasizes only failures in problem solving. Instead, it provides a balanced view of why problems are and are not solved successfully. Therefore, the book is organized by factors that affect problem-solving performance, such as intellectual abilities, working memory, motivation, and transfer of training, rather than by area of endeavor, such as mathematics, social science, natural science, and history. Each chapter focuses on one or more factors that are common to the solution of a wide range of problems. However, the extent to which these factors affect problem-solving performance can vary from one type of problem to another.

The book is divided into four parts. Part I comprises the introduction to the book and to the field of problem solving. In chapter 1, Jean Pretz . . .

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