# Problem Solving Chimps and Learning II Problem Solving

• Slides: 25

Problem Solving Chimps and Learning II

Problem Solving refers to active efforts to discover what must be done to achieve a goal that is not readily available

l. What strategies do we use to solve problems? l. What obstacles hinder our problem solving?

Trial and Error l No organization, no preparation, no system…just try everything and anything until something works • Thomas Edison tried thousands of light bulb filaments before stumbling upon the one that worked

Algorithm l. A methodical, step-bystep, logical rule or procedure that guarantees solving a particular problem

• How many words can you make out of the letters SPLOYOCHYG? Try each letter in each position, resulting in 907, 200 combinations, and then pick out the words that make sense. Step-by-step.

Heuristics l 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 SPLOYOCHYG? You know 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 approximation.

Insight l. 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 !!”

Representative Heuristics l. Judging the likelihood of an answer in terms of how well it seems to represent, or match, particular concepts that we already have

• Looking for the smartest guy in a room full of strangers? It’s probably the older guy in the tweed suit with thick glasses. • Choosing teams for a pick-up game of basketball? Pick the tall guy first. • Searching for a stolen vehicle? Its probably over in the West Side of town.

Availability Heuristic l Making our judgments based on the events that are most readily available in memory • 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.

Confirmation Bias l. A tendency to search for answers and information that confirms one’s own preconceptions

l. 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 belief.

Fixation l Only attempting to solve a problem from a single perspective • 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.

Functional Fixedness l 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 coin.

Overconfidence l. The tendency to be more confident than correct – to overestimate the accuracy of one’s beliefs and judgments

l Belief Bias – the tendency for one’s pre-existing beliefs to distort logical reasoning l Belief Perseverance – clinging to one’s initial conceptions, even after the bias has been discredited

When we think about solving a problem, how do we access applicable information in our memory in a useful manner?

Concepts l. A multilevel classification system based on common properties among items

• 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 ……

Dog Fur, Four Legs, Tail, Bark Large Breed Over 50 lbs. Small Breed Under 50 lbs.

Prototypes l. A mental image or best example of each concept we have developed • We match new items to our mental prototypes in order to allow or disallow items into our concept groups

Dog Fur, Four Legs, Tail, Bark Large Breed Over 50 lbs. Small Breed 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”