Thought and Knowledge: An Introduction to Critical Thinking

By Diane F. Halpern | Go to book overview
4. Have You Reached Your Goal? The final step in problem solving is an assessment of the quality of the solution. In well-defined problems, this question becomes: Is your solution the correct one? In ill-defined problems, the solution has to be evaluated qualitatively both in an absolute sense (Does it alleviate or reduce the problem?) and in a relative sense (Is it the best alternative?).

CHAPTER SUMMARY
1. All problems can be conceptualized as being composed of "anatomical" parts that include a start state, a goal state, and paths leading from the start to the goal. This entire structure is called the problem space.
2. It is common to divide the problem-solving process into four stages: preparation or familiarization, production, judgment or evaluation, and incubation. Incubation is an optional stage that does not always occur. Persistence is a critical trait of good problem solvers.
3. Problems can be classified along a continuum ranging from well defined to ill defined. Well-defined problems have explicit paths and goals. Ill-defined problems are subject to multiple interpretations. Most of the problems encountered in life are ill defined.
4. Solution strategies need to be planned. A plan for solving a problem will include the construction of a representation and the generation and evaluation of possible solutions.
5. An invaluable aid in solving problems is to devise an external form of representation. The best representation to choose will depend on the type of problem.
6. Thirteen different strategies for generating and evaluating solutions were presented. Often several will be used together in solving a problem. General guidelines were offered for the appropriate use of each.
7. There are four common sources of difficulty that problem solvers encounter. Functional fixedness refers to the failure to utilize items in unusual ways. Mental set, which is closely related to functional fixedness, refers to the predisposition to respond to any situation in a fixed way. Misleading and irrelevant information can "derail one's trail of thought" and can lead you down blind paths. The constraints imposed upon us by our society cause us to view problems from our own narrow frames of reference. Mechanization refers to the rote, unthinking applications of previous solutions without stopping to think about improving our strategies.

TERMS TO KNOW
You should be able to define or describe the following terms or concepts. If you find that you're having difficulty with any term, be sure to reread the section in which it is discussed:
Anatomy of a Problem. Newell and Simon ( 1972) conceptualized all problems as consisting of parts or components--an initial state, a goal state, and solution paths that link the initial state to the goal state.
Initial State. The starting or beginning place in a problem. A problem is solved when the problem solver can find "paths" from the initial state to the goal.
Goal State. The desired end state in a problem. When a problem solver finds "paths" to the goal, the problem is solved.

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Thought and Knowledge: An Introduction to Critical Thinking
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Acknowledgments for the First Edition xiii
  • 1 - Thinking: an Introduction 1
  • Chapter Summary 32
  • 2 - Memory: The Acquisition Retention, and Retrieval of Knowledge 36
  • Chapter Summary 70
  • 3 - The Relationship Between Thought and Language 75
  • Chapter Summary 115
  • 4 - Reasoning: Drawing Deductively Valid Conclusions 118
  • Chapter Summary 162
  • 5 - Analyzing Arguments 167
  • Chapter Summary 207
  • 6 - Thinking as Hypothesis Testing 212
  • Chapter Summary 237
  • 7 - Likelihood and Uncertainty: Understanding Probabilities 241
  • Chapter Summary 277
  • 8 - Decision Making 281
  • Chapter Summary 313
  • 9 - Development of Problem-Solving Skills 317
  • Chapter Summary 360
  • 10 - Creativethinking 364
  • Chapter Summary 389
  • 11 - The Last Word 393
  • References 395
  • Author Index 409
  • Subject Index 415
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