Psychology of Problem Solving: Theory and Practice

By Gary A. Davis | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2

SIMPLIFYING ASSUMPTIONS,
DEFINITIONS, AND A
PROBLEM-SOLVING TAXONOMY

HUMAN PROBLEM SOLVING and innovative thinking are among the highest and most complex forms of human mental life. Such thinking takes innumerable shapes and forms in a wide variety of problem-solving and decision-making situations. Given this broad subject matter, it would be useful to define some pivotal terms, make a few assumptions and observations, and finally try to classify various types of problem situations. The goal throughout is to specify both the commonalities and distinctions among, for example, Köhler's chimpanzee Sultan raking in a banana; a college student solving an anagram, chess, bridge, or crossword problem; or a mechanical engineer creating a low-pollutant steam engine. Some definitions and assumptions will be "safe": that is, obvious or circular. Others may not be and perhaps will not stimulate instant agreement by the thoughtful reader.


A Problem

A simple yet meaningful definition of a problem is as follows : A problem is a stunulus situcrtion for which an organism does not have a ready response. Skinner (1966) pro

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