Thinking and Problem Solving by Robert J. Sternberg (Eds.)

By Robert J. Sternberg (Eds.)

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1912). ). New York: Macmillan. Yerkes, R. M. (1916). The mental life of monkeys and apes, a study of ideational behavior. Behavior Monographs, No. 12. CHAPTER 2 Contemporary Approaches to the Study of Thinking and Problem Solving K. Anders Ericsson Reid Hastie I. I N T R O D U C T I O N Recent reviews of thinking (Holyoak & Spellman, 1993; Oden, 1987) distinguish between a general definition of thinking that includes all intelligent cognitive activities and a more specific definition that includes only the most "complex" forms of cognitive activities, such as reasoning, decision making, and problem solving.

Our review of trial and error, insight, set, and transfer effects will illustrate the conflict between emphases on learning and emphases on perception as central components of problem solving. 1. Trial and Error Because a problem solver must find a solution, it might seem inevitable that an essential activity is trying different approaches and making errors until the right approach is found. At a purely descriptive level, this is so. But early in problem-solving research, trial and error became associated with the view that acquiring a solution is a gradual, undirected process that does not involve perception or comprehension of problem requirements or structure.

Hence Aristotle went beyond a recording of recalled sequences of thoughts primarily by his extraction of the relations between thoughts. Aristotle's findings and methods were elaborated until the eighteenth century, but then new issues concerning the origin and elements of thoughts started to be approached by more systematic theoretical analysis, with less emphasis on naive observation of one's naturally occurring flow of thinking. Philosophers would relax, let the mind wander, and focus on a particular thought.

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