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A problem arises when we need to overcome some obstacle in order to get from our current state to a desired state.Problem solving is the process that an organism implements in order to try to get from the current state to the desired state.One of these was called the Einstellung effect, now more commonly referred to as .
In particular, in the process of thinking about a problem individuals sometimes "restructured" their representation of the problem, leading to a flash of insight that enabled them to reach a solution.
In (1915) Wolfgang Köhler described a series of studies with apes in which the animals appeared to demonstrate insight in problem solving situations.
A description of these studies, with photographs, can be found here.
The Gestalt psychologists described several aspects of thought that acted as barriers to successful problem solving.
For a real life example of overcoming fuctional fixedness, see: Overcoming functional fixedness: Apollo 13 Questions: What do you think of Köhler's claim that his apes had demonstrated insight?
What proportion of Maier's participants spontaneously found the solution before getting any kind of hint? The problem space for the eight puzzle consists of the initial arrangement of tiles, the desired arrangement of tiles (normally 1, 2, 3….8), and all the possible arrangements that can be arrived at in between.
Another heuristic is , whereby people take the action that leads to the biggest similarity between current state and goal state.
Before reading further, see if you can solve the following problem: In the hobbits and orcs problem the task instructions are as follows: On one side of a river are three hobbits and three orcs.
In 1957 Newell and Simon developed the General Problem Solver, a computer program that used means-ends analysis to find solutions to a range of - problems that have clear paths (if not easy ones) to a goal state.
In their 1972 book on problem solving they reported the verbal protocols of participants engaged in problem solving, which showed a close match between the steps that they took and those taken by the General Problem Solver.