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Intro to Social Psych

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Problem solving:

- purposeful and goal directed cognitive process

- effortful, rather than automatic

- occurs when one is missing relevant knowledge to produce an immediate solution


  • Present situation that differs from a desired goal

Features of problems

Well defined problems - tell you everything you need to know. What the initial state is and what the goal state is. Will tell you the range of possible steps between the two states. Have an optimal strategy leading to a single correct answer. Examples: Mazes, chess, most lab based tasks

- Initial state

- Range of possible moves/ strategies

- Goal / Solution

Ill-defined problems

  • Underspecified goals
  • Most everyday problems

Knowledge rich problems

  • Require considerable amount of specific knowledge or expertise

Knowledge lean problems

  • Don’t require much specific knowledge
  1. The Monty hall problem: Humans are bad at probability and sometimes experts don’t agree solutions to problems. Three curtains and behind two is something undesirable and one is desirable like a car. Does he increase his chances of winning if he switches? It doubles his chances when he switches. Because you rather have two chances than one. Started off as choosing three than choosing two so second time it’s not 50%.

Different ways to solve problems

By algorithm: Try all possible strategies, in steps, until problem solved

  • Certain but slow and tedious  ultimately gets to the solution but humans do not use algorithms generally speaking
  • Computer/ machine

Heuristic problem solving: Try most likely strategies until problem solved (choose a behavior likely to solve a problem)

  • Mental shortcuts
  • Faster, but more error prone
  • Human/ Animal
  • Mostly correct solutions quickly and will less effort than algorithms

Is useful when …

  • Have too much info (cognitive overload)
  • Too little relevant info
  • Too little time to make a decision
  • Decision is unimportant or low stakes
  • Appropriate heuristic happens to pop into your mind called: Insight

Insight in animals and problem solving


Can bottlenose dolphins cooperate when solving a task?

This test showed cooperation not competition between dolphins



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