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Problem Solving & Creativity. Dr. Claudia J. Stanny EXP 4507 Memory & Cognition Spring 2009. Overview. Representing problems Strategies for solving problems Expertise and problem solving Impediments to solving problems Creativity. What is a Problem?.

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Problem solving creativity

Problem Solving & Creativity

Dr. Claudia J. Stanny

EXP 4507

Memory & Cognition

Spring 2009


  • Representing problems

  • Strategies for solving problems

  • Expertise and problem solving

  • Impediments to solving problems

  • Creativity

Claudia J. Stanny

What is a problem
What is a Problem?

  • Discrepancy between the current situation and a desired situation

    • Initial state

    • Goal State

    • Obstacles that make transition between states difficult

  • Problem solving entails:

    • Accurately representing the problem

    • Discovering procedures to eliminate obstacles

Claudia J. Stanny

Types of problems
Types of Problems

  • Well-defined problems

    • Can identify or describe a “correct” solution

    • May be established algorithms for arriving at a solution

  • Ill-defined problems

    • A single “correct” solution may not be known

    • Difficult to evaluate the quality of multiple potential solutions

    • Procedures for solving the problem may be unknown

Claudia J. Stanny

Representing problems
Representing Problems

  • Different problems must be represented differently to achieve a solution

  • Need to discover and use the most appropriate method for representing problems of a given type

    • Symbols

    • Matrices

    • Diagrams

    • Visual images

Claudia J. Stanny

Probability tree diagram
Probability Tree Diagram

Claudia J. Stanny

Problem solving strategies
Problem-Solving Strategies

  • Algorithms

  • Heuristics

    • Mean-ends analysis

    • Hill-climbing heuristic

  • Analogies

Claudia J. Stanny

Mean ends analysis
Mean-Ends Analysis

  • General Problem Solver (Newell & Simon)

  • Problem space

    • Beginning/Current state

    • Goal state

    • Operations available to modify the current state

  • Problems are defined as a difference between the current state and the goal state

  • Solution may require setting sub-goals

  • Select operations that reduce the difference between the current state and the goal state

Claudia J. Stanny

Hill climbing heuristic
Hill-Climbing Heuristic

  • At each choice point, select the operation or procedure that moves you closer to the goal state

  • Problem:

    Sometimes the solution requires temporarily moving away from the goal state

Claudia J. Stanny

Backward reasoning
Backward Reasoning

  • Reverse the process in means-ends analysis

  • Consider the operations needed to make the goal state look more like the current state

    • Helps in establishing important subgoals for means-ends analysis

    • May help identify important operations that are not obvious when using forward reasoning

Claudia J. Stanny

Reasoning by analogy
Reasoning by Analogy

  • Use a known system to serve as a model for the current problem

  • Basis for the analogy

    • Surface features of the problem and the model are similar

    • Structural features of the problem and the model are similar

    • We discover useful solutions more often when the analogy is based on similar structural features

Claudia J. Stanny

Problem solving by experts and novices
Problem Solving by Experts and Novices

  • How details about the problem are perceived

  • Memory for details about the problem

  • Experts recognize important structural characteristics of problems

  • Experts rely more frequently on forward reasoning

    • Proceduralization of reasoning strategies

  • Differences between experts and novices are domain-specific rather than general

Claudia J. Stanny

Mental set
Mental Set

  • Bias to adopt the strategy, procedure or interpretation that was used with previous problems

  • Make assumptions that are not justified and that interfere with solution to the problem

  • Functional Fixedness: Focus on typical uses for objects rather than novel uses that will enable solving the problem

Claudia J. Stanny

Luchins water jug problem
Luchins Water Jug Problem

  • Jar A 20; Jar B 5; Jar C 130 – Need 100

  • Jar A 12; Jar B 3; Jar C 108 – Need 90

  • Jar A 6; Jar B 1; Jar C 28 – Need 20

  • Jar A 6; Jar B 4; Jar C 44 – Need 30

  • Jar A 10; Jar B 5; Jar C 30 – Need 15

Claudia J. Stanny

Functional fixedness
Functional Fixedness

  • Failure to recognize multiple uses of objects typically used for other purposes

  • Duncker (1945) candle problem

  • Identify 10 uses for this object:

Claudia J. Stanny

What is creativity
What is Creativity?

  • Creativity is frequently defined in terms of the characteristics of creative products:

  • Solutions to problems

  • Artistic creations

  • Characteristics of creative solutions & ideas

    • Novel

    • High quality

    • Useful

    • Appropriate to context

Claudia J. Stanny


  • Mechanisms for creative thought

    • Role of special processes such as incubation

    • Ordinary cognitive processes also contribute to creative results

      • Directed remembering – conscious retrieval of information under constraints

      • Noticing – attention to errors during edits/revisions

      • Flexibility – recognizing and categorizing objects in multiple ways

    • Thinker is motivated to search extensively for information that meets criteria of novelty

    • Evaluate potential solution or new idea

      • Will it solve the problem?

      • Will it create undesirable outcomes?

Claudia J. Stanny

Measuring aptitude for creativity
Measuring Aptitude for Creativity

  • Divergent Thinking Approach (Guilford)

    • Focus on ability to generate multiple and varied responses to a single prompt

  • Investment Theory of Creativity (Sternberg)

    • Produce a new idea when no one else is interested (“buy low”)

    • When idea becomes popular (“sell high”), move on to a new project

    • Focus on characteristics of creative individuals and the environments that support them

Claudia J. Stanny

Remote associates test
Remote Associates Test

Assumes creativity requires discovering new relations between concepts.

Find a single word that is related to all three of the following words:

Claudia J. Stanny

Attributes that promote creativity
Attributes that Promote Creativity

  • Characteristics of the individual:

    • Intelligence

    • Knowledge (expertise in area of creativity)

    • Motivation

    • Appropriate thinking style

    • Appropriate personality

  • Characteristics of the environment

    • Encouraging environment

Claudia J. Stanny

Factors that influence creativity
Factors that Influence Creativity

  • Intrinsic motivation

    • High intrinsic motivation is associated with higher levels of creativity

    • Greater persistence at tasks required to generate multiple solutions and struggle with obstacles

  • Extrinsic motivation

    • Extrinsic motivational pressures such as formal evaluations & offers of rewards reduce the quality of creative products generated (especially if the reward system limits options)

    • Useful for ensuring people meet deadlines

Claudia J. Stanny