Approaches to Problem Solving

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Essay topic: Compare and contrast the generate-and-test, the means-end analysis, and the reasoning-by-analogy approaches to problem solving. Give examples of each and apply at least one to current research.

How does one go about solving problems? There are many different methods but three in particular that are of interest to psychologists in the field of cognition. These three approaches are the generate and test approach, the means-end analysis approach and the reasoning-by-analogy approach.

The generate and test method can be illustrated by how a doctor might work. When looking for a cure for a patient's malady a doctor most often will try to think of all the possible medicines, procedures, etc that can help. Next, the doctor will prescribe one of the cures to see if it will get rid of the ailment. If that one doesn't work, the doctor will move on to the next one and so on.

The means-end analysis approach is a strategy where the person looks at the desired goal and breaks down the process it will take to get to the goal. For example, if the goal is to get to class a person can set mini-goals that will help to achieve the larger goal. In this instance the smaller goals could be setting an alarm to wake up in the morning, waking up, turning off the alarm, getting out of bed, taking a shower, getting dressed, brushing teeth, doing hair, putting backpack together, making lunch, getting into car, driving to school, etc etc. The mini-goals help to solve the problem of getting to class.

The third problem solving technique is reasoning-by-analogy. In a study done by Didierjean (1999) 16 college students who were novices at the game of Chess were shown chess problem examples. They then were given similar problems to solve. The results showed that in the transfer between the example problems and the actual problems the subjects were to solve, subjects only succeeded on the problems that were closest to the examples. This research illustrates how the subjects...
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