A Metatheoretical Basis for Interpretations of Problem-solving Behavior

Methodology and Science: Interdisciplinary Journal for the Empirical Study of the Foundations of Science and Their Methodology 11 (2):59-85 (1978)
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The paper identifies defining characteristics of the principal models of problem-solving behavior which are useful in developing a general theory of problem-solving. An attempt is made both to make explicit those disagreements between theorists of different persuasions which have served as obstacles to an integrated approach, and to show that these disagreements have arisen from a number of conceptual confusions: The conflict between information processors and behavioral analysts has resulted from a common failure to understand theoretical sufficiency, and hence these theorists have been at a loss to understand one another. Two directions of research in problem-solving, mechanical algorithmic problem-solving and the psychology of invention, have been thought to be divergent, but in fact complement one another once it is clear that problem-solving involves neither discovery nor invention, but rather is a matter of perceptual encoding and processing. Successful problem-solving behavior can be described as adaptive, learning behavior in which organization skills are effectively associated with situationally determined perceptual encoding processes of the individual mechanical or biological problem-solver.

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Steven James Bartlett
Willamette University


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