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This type of problem is called a “complex problem” and is of central importance to this paper. All psychological processes that occur within individual persons and deal with the handling of such ill-defined complex problems will be subsumed under the umbrella term “complex problem solving” (CPS). This clarification seems necessary because misunderstandings in recent publications provide – from our point of view – a potentially misleading picture of the construct.
Computer-simulated scenarios have been part of psychological research on problem solving for more than 40 years.
The shift in emphasis from simple toy problems to complex, more real-life oriented problems has been accompanied by discussions about the best ways to assess the process of solving complex problems. doi: 10.1002/acp.2350090605 Pub Med Abstract | Cross Ref Full Text | Google Scholar Schweizer, F., Wüstenberg, S., and Greiff, S. Validity of the Micro DYN approach: complex problem solving predicts school grades beyond working memory capacity.
Psychometric issues such as reliable assessments and addressing correlations with other instruments have been in the foreground of these discussions and have left the content validity of complex problem solving in the background.
In this paper, we return the focus to content issues and address the important features that define complex problems.
For example: The goal state for solving the political conflict in the near-east conflict between Israel and Palestine is not clearly defined (living in peaceful harmony with each other?
) and even if the conflict parties would agree on a two-state solution, this goal again leaves many issues unresolved. Telling more than we can know: verbal reports on mental processes. But real-world problems feature open boundaries and have no well-determined solution. In fact, the world is full of wicked problems and clumsy solutions (Verweij and Thompson, 2006). doi: 10.1177/1046878197281004 Cross Ref Full Text | Google Scholar Rohe, M., Funke, J., Storch, M., and Weber, J. Can motto goals outperform learning and performance goals? The concept was introduced in Germany by Dörner and colleagues in the mid-1970s (see Dörner et al., 1975; Dörner, 1975) for the first time. doi: 10.1026/0033-3042/a000108 Cross Ref Full Text | Google Scholar Mainert, J., Kretzschmar, A., Neubert, J. The German phrase was later translated to CPS in the titles of two edited volumes by Sternberg and Frensch (1991) and Frensch and Funke (1995a) that collected papers from different research traditions. doi: 10.3200/JOER.101.2.113-125 Cross Ref Full Text | Google Scholar Leutner, D., Fleischer, J., Wirth, J., Greiff, S., and Funke, J. Analytische und dynamische Problemlösekompetenz im Lichte internationaler Schulleistungsvergleichsstudien: Untersuchungen zur Dimensionalität. Even though it looks as though the term was coined in the 1970s, Edwards (1962) used the term “dynamic decision making” to describe decisions that come in a sequence. He compared static with dynamic decision making, writing: In dynamic situations, a new complication not found in the static situations arises. Early work (see, e.g., Dörner, 1980) used a simulation scenario called “Lohhausen” that contained more than 2000 variables that represented the activities of a small town: Participants had to take over the role of a mayor for a simulated period of 10 years. The simulation condensed these ten years to ten hours in real time. Construct validity of complex problem solving: a comprehensive view on different facets of intelligence and school grades. doi: 10.1016/j.intell.20 Cross Ref Full Text | Google Scholar Kretzschmar, A., and Süß, H.-M. A study on the training of complex problem solving competence. As a result, solving well-defined problems and solving ill-defined problems requires different cognitive processes (Schraw et al., 1995; but see Funke, 2010). Influence of goal setting on performance, intrinsic motivation, processing style, and affect in a complex problem solving task. Well-defined problems have a clear set of means for reaching a precisely described goal state.