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Gestalt Problem Solving

Gestalt Problem Solving

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Published by: afaravani on Jan 03, 2012
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 1
F1Gestalt Problem Solving
Akram Faravani
The Gestalt theory of problem solving, described by Karl Duncker (1945) and MaxWertheimer(1959), holds that problem solving occurs with a flash of insight. Richard Mayer(1995) noted that insight occurs when a problem solver moves from a state of not knowing howto solve a problem to knowing how to solve a problem. During insight, problem solvers devise away of representing the problem that enables solution. Gestalt psychologists offered severalways of conceptualizing what happens during insight: insight involves building a schema inwhich all the parts fit together, insight involves suddenly reorganizing the visual information soit fits together to solve the problem, insight involves restating a problems givens or problemgoal in a new way that makes the problem easier to solve, insight involves removing mentalblocks, and insight involves finding a problem analog (i.e., a similar problem that the problemsolver already knows how to solve). Gestalt theory informs educational programs aimed atteaching students how to represent problems.Gestalt psychologists saw problem solving as the closure of a problem, achieved by therepresentation of the problem in an appropriate way. A problem is only a problem because it isincomplete; the solution makes it complete, and finding the solution closes theincompleteness. Closure is accompanied by the flash of insight or aha! experience.Gestalt psychologists typically studied problem solving by using verbal protocols. They weremore interested in the process of problem solving than the solution and verbal protocols are away of studying the process. They believed that solutions came from an insight into theproblem and occurred when the participants restructured the problem. Insights occur when theparticipants are suddenly aware of the answer (the participants do not gradually work toward asolution; rather it appears in a flash).
Representation
P
roblem solution involves mentally forming and reforming different representations of aproblem until the right form is chosen. The ease with which the appropriate representation canbe found changes the difficulty of the problem. Difficult problems are those in which theappropriate representation is not apparent from the initial description and must be discoveredby the solver.
 
 2
S
et
Gestalt psychologists argued that there are a number of possible negative effects of pastexperience and reproductive thinking (using previous experience of problem solving to solvenew ones) such as
 problem solving
set and
 functional fixedness.
P
roblem solving set occurswhen participants learn to solve a series of problems in a specific manner. The solution thenbecomes a habit (or a mental set) which is used even if a simpler solution is possible.Set or fixity is a tendency to keep thinking about familiar uses of objects within a problem(functional set), or about familiar approaches to solving a problem (operational set), eventhough they are not helping you find a solution. Set can be reduced by giving objects nonsensenames, or by intentionally trying to think of novel uses for objects.
I
ncubation
P
roblem solving has four stages:a)
 
P
reparation ( when you discover the problem and think about it unsuccessfully often fora long time)b)
 
Incubation (when you give up and do something else for a while, perhaps somethingrelaxing)c)
 
Illumination ( when the flash of insight presents the solution to you)d)
 
Verification (when you check that your solution works, and perhaps refine it.In incubation stage, you are not trying to solve the problem and the solution may appear in aflash of insight. Incubation may allow set to weaken, by giving time for obvious (but wrong)ideas to fade; or it may give time for unconscious processes to continue re-representing theproblem.
I
nsight
There are two types of thinking that can be applied to solving problems:a)
 
Reproductive thinking (using previous experience of problem solving to solve new ones)b)
 
P
roductive thinking
P
roductive thinking involves an understanding of the underlying structure of the problem and ismore likely to lead to a restructuring of the problem and an insight into the solution whilereproductive thinking is structurally blind. For example, if you were to learn a mathematicalrule while solving one problem you could use this rule when faced with a similar problem.
 
 3
While this approach can be useful, it can also lead to problems since people do not notice thestructure of the problem and may not see other simpler solutions.Insight experience occurs due to a sudden release from set which is more likely to happen afterincubation in a context different from the one in which the set was formed.Thus, insight is equated with the moment of creative inspiration, and productive thinking is aninsightful mode that allows novel associations to be made.
F2 Goals and States
P
roblems arise when people do not see immediately how to get from where they are (startingstate) to where they want to be. Therefore, every problem has a
start state
(or initial state) andthis is the position you begin with. The
goal state
is the state you want to achieve. Something isonly a problem if we do not know how to get from the start state to the goal state, since if wecan immediately see how to achieve the goal state it is not a problem. For each problem, thereare different types of processes or actions that enable us to get from one state to another;these are called
operators
. State space includes every state of a problem.
P
roblems are solvedby finding a solution path that links the start space to the goal state.
P
roblems that haveidentical state spaces despite different descriptions (surface structure) are isomorphs of eachother.
Operators and procedural knowledge
The more familiar we are with the operators, the more procedural knowledge we have aboutthem and the easier they are to apply.
P
rocedural knowledge is knowing how to do anoperator, and if you have more procedural knowledge for some operators than others within aproblem space, you may be more likely to construct a solution path that relies upon them thanthe others. This may limit your ability to find the best (or only) solution path.
P
roblem isomorphs can vary in the amount of procedural knowledge they allow us to use, andso can vary in difficulty despite having the same state space.
Types of problems
P
roblems can differ in how well they are defined. When problems are
well-defined (
or
well-structured)
, the start state and the goal state are clearly identified. Furthermore, in well-defined problems the actions (or operators) which are allowed or prohibited are also known. Inill-defined (or ill-structured) problems, one or more of the parameters (start state, goal state,operators, and prohibited operators) are not known.

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