Mental Problem Solving

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This means that when experts think about problems, relevant information is automatically activated in memory, along with relevant solution procedures.

In contrast, when novices think about a problem, their knowledge is too general and too scattered throughout memory, making problem-solving a tedious trial-and-error search.

You want to date that gorgeous person, but you get tongue-tied whenever you even think about it.

You are running late for work, and your car won’t start.

Yes, that’s right: All problem solving, at bottom, is search.

When there is a clear procedure that will take you from the one to the other, we call that a well-defined problem. For the first, you simply follow a recipe, and voila, you’ve got breakfast.

) or they don’t have clear solution paths (how do you attract the interest of someone you find attractive? In 1945, the brilliant mathematician, George Pólya (1887–1985) wrote the quintessential text for solving problems, aptly titled How to Solve It. You do this by developing a representation of the essential aspects of the problem. Look back on your work and ask “how could it be better? But most people make one huge mistake that derails the entire process, making it far less likely that they will succeed. They often use a trial-and-error strategy in which the first solution that comes to mind is put into play.

Here is how he summarized the problem-solving process. You do that by searching your knowledge base for information that seems to you to be solution-relevant. After understanding, then make a plan for solving the problem. Because they didn’t take the time to fully understand the problem, their solution attempts fail when foreseeable glitches arise.

You have a problem when your current situation differs from your desired goal.

You want to be rich, but your checking account balance is circling the drain.


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