Solving Problems

Topic: Solving problems

Posted by: Duwon

Key Terms:

  • Algorithm= a methodical, logical rule or procedure that guarantees solving a particular problem. Contrasts with the usually speedier-but also more error prone- use of heuristics
  • heuristics=a simple thinking strategy that often allows us to make judgments and solve problems efficiently; usually speedier but also more error prone than algorithms
  • insight=a sudden and often novel realization of the solution to a problem; it contrast with strategy-based solutions.
  • Confirmation bias=a tendency to search for information that confirms one's preconception
  • fixation= the inability to see a problem from a new perspective; an impediment to problem solving
  • mental set= a tendency to approach a problem in a particular way, especially a way that has been successful in the past but may or may not be helpful in solving a new problem.
  • functional fixedness= the tendency to think of things only in terms of their usual functions; an impediment to problem solving


When person encounters a problem, there are three ways this problem can be solved. Trial and error, algorithm, and heuristics.

Trial and error is when a person solves a problem by number of trials until he or she gets the answer. Algorithm is a step-by-step procedure and simple strategies are called heuristics.

There is also a sudden and often novel realization of a solution of that problem and it is called the insight.
Confirmation bias is when a person tends to look for the information that confirms what he or she thinks is right. the book talks about the experiment Peter Wason did with British university students.
fixation is the inability to see a problem from a new perspective.
mental set is when a person is able to solve a problem because of the result of a previous question they had solved. they try to use the same solution that they had used before. However, if this result is different, it will make it harder for the person to solve the question because they stick to what they had used before.
functional fixedness is the tendency to think of things only in terms of their usual functions. bad for problem solving. The book explains these by giving out questions for the readers.

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Try solving it before looking at the solution using your PROBLEM SOLVING skills.

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