Problem Solving

Miriam Bassok and Laura R. Novick

in The Oxford Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199734689
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Problem Solving

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience



This chapter follows the historical development of research on problem solving. It begins with a description of two research traditions that addressed different aspects of the problem-solving process: (1) research on problem representation (the Gestalt legacy) that examined how people understand the problem at hand, and (2) research on search in a problem space (the legacy of Newell and Simon) that examined how people generate the problem's solution. It then describes some developments in the field that fueled the integration of these two lines of research: work on problem isomorphs, on expertise in specific knowledge domains (e.g., chess, mathematics), and on insight solutions. Next, it presents examples of recent work on problem solving in science and mathematics that highlight the impact of visual perception and background knowledge on how people represent problems and search for problem solutions. The final section considers possible directions for future research.

Keywords: problem solving; representation; search; expertise; insight; gestalt; diagrams; math; science

Article.  13827 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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