Problem Solving




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When reading the lesson on problem solving, I found myself very uninterested until I stumbled upon ill-defined problems.  According to the text book, an ill-defined problem is part of everyday life, doesn’t not necessarily have a correct answer, and the solution is unclear.  Who can’t relate to the struggles of everyday life? Although I face many small problems on a daily basis, I have one recurring problem I cannot seem to find a solution too; a break-up.

After about three weeks of being upset, I figured that maybe something I learned in class could actually help me.  I decided that the best way to attempt to find a solution is through in vivo problem solving research.  This means that I will simply observe people to determine how they solve a similar problem, then repeat the process. Well, that is easier said than done.  It is nearly impossible to find someone to observe who has the exact same relationship issues that you do. I spent hours searching the internet for advice from women who have been stuck in the same rut that I find myself in, but none of it seemed helpful.

Finally I realized that what I was looking for was right in front of the all along, a distraction.  I found that once I went on this quest to find a way to cheer up, I was in-fact cheered up simply by doing research.  I didn’t need to imitate a random persons actions to solve a problem completely different than mine. I simply needed to find my own way to solve it, which happened to be by distracting myself with something else.  The moral of this story, is that in vivo problem solving doesn’t necessarily always work, sometimes you’re better off trying to find a more reasonable solution to a problem.

8 thoughts on “Problem Solving

  1. Sadaka Maisah Archie

    Problem solving is an important component in everyday life. Some may be simple to solve, others may take some time. Similarly to an example provided in the book, one of the biggest problems that recently occurred is deciding on which graduate school I want to attend and in what city. An ill-defined problem is one type of problem and is those that occur in every-day life and does not necessarily have a final answer. Furthermore, the solution and path is unclear (Goldstein, 2011). The example I provided in my initial post about graduate school can be a well-defined problem because a career path is known and present; there will be certain procedures taken and will concluded to a solution that fits best. Therefore, there are methods to solving well-defined problems.

    When discussing problem solving, it is important to mention Gestalt Psychologists and the research conducted. Gestalt psychologists identify two factors that contribute to resolving problem solving: the representation of the problem in one’s mind and how solving a problem consists of a reorganization and restructuring of the representation (Goldstein, 2011). Representation of one’s mind is how individuals approach the problem. Reorganizing and restructuring of the representation of a problem involves insight, sudden realization of a problem’s solution (Goldstein, 2011).

    In order to solve my problem of attending graduate school, I would use the working backwards method. For example, as I’m looking into graduate programs, an ultimate goal and outcome has been set that I want to achieve. Since I have yet to achieve the goal, I’m taking each step to reach the ultimate goal. Working backwards is most effective and is more efficient (Pennsylvania State University, 2014). Therefore, everyone experiences problem solving in everyday life, whether it is small or to a great capacity.

    Goldstein, B. (2011). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research and Everyday Experience, 3rd Edition.Wadsworth, Inc.
    The Pennsylvania State University (2014). Commentary. Lesson 13: Problem Solving. Retrieved from

  2. Jana Lynn Burbage

    Problem solving can be a daily event or long term. I agree that looking at others’ can help you with your own problem solving. Everyday we have problems that may be described as ill-defined. You can not be sure if the answer you choose will be one you regret or are satisfied with. There are problems that we deal with daily and other one that impact the rest of your life. I have both types. Small ones like what should I eat today and long tern about how many kids will I want later in life. You can ask for advice from others or just watch what they do and repeat it. If you watch another person’s lead and you duplicate it, you can have good or horrifying. Some problems that are solved by others in their own life could be detrimental in your own life By watching others and doing watching. This is referred to as vivo problem solving. This does not fit everyone and every situation.

  3. Connie D Walls

    The end of a relationship is a difficult thing to deal with under any circumstances. After all, it is a death of something that at one time was very important. It sounds to me that the “utility approach to decisions” is what you used. After trying several approaches you found an outcome that “achieves a person’s goals (Goldstein, 2011).”

    I believe that we are all unique, and that while some solutions may work for some, these solutions are not universal. The one thing that is universal is our resilience and ability to learn from our past experiences. Through your grieving process, while it may be very painful and if you allow yourself, you can emerge much wiser and have greater expected utility, “the assumption that people are basically rational, so if they have all of the relevant information, they will make a decision that results in the maximum expected utility,” than before this experience.

    While this information will not lessen the emotions your feeling or shorten the time it takes for you to distance yourself from the relationship, it will give your mind something else to redirect the pain of loss toward what can I change for the future that will give me the maximum outcome I need.

    I recently lost my mother, and while I am still grieving, it was expected and since she was 88 years old I knew at some point I would have to face life without her. But, my pain is still in existence. While watching the movie Transcendence one of the actors said, “The mind is an amazing thing, it can resolve the conflict that you love someone yet you hate the things they do” and I too was amazed that both emotions can cause such conflict yet exist in the same space at the same time.

    Eventually, your mind will resolve this conflict and I applaud your ingenuity in finding your unique coping tools.

    Goldstein, E. B. (2011). Cognitive psychology: connecting mind, research, and everyday experience (3rd ed.). Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

  4. Connie D Walls

    The end of a relationship is a difficult thing to deal with under any circumstances. After all, it is a death of something that at one time was very important. It sounds to me that the “utility approach to decisions” is what you used. After trying several approaches you found an outcome that “achieves a person’s goals (Goldstein, 2011).”

  5. Melanie Shannon Carra

    Hi Shawna,

    It’s never easy when a relationship ends. Whatever the reason for the split, the break up can turn your whole world upside down and trigger all sorts of emotions. A breakup throws you for a loop. Everything in your world is disrupted: your routine and responsibilities, your home and your relationship with your friends, and even your identity. What you are going thru brings uncertainty to the future. That is where the problem lies.

    According to our textbook, ill-defined problems occur frequently in everyday life, they do not necessarily have one “correct” answer, and the path to their solution is often unclear (Goldstein, 2011). The solution to dealing with your breakup is unclear. There are a number of ways to deal with your situation. One of which is divergent thinking. Divergent thinking is thinking that is open-ended, involving a large number of potential “solutions” and no “correct” answer (Goldstein, 2011). Divergent thinking can be contrasted with convergent thinking, which is thinking that works toward finding a solution to a specific problem (Goldstein, 2011). In your case, the problem is finding a solution to dealing with your pain and emotions of going thru your breakup. Now we all know the saying that “time heals all wounds”. Fair enough, but how will that help you now?

    Having been through a painful divorce, I can offer you a few words of advice. First, is to recognize that it is okay to have different feelings. It is completely normal to feel sad, angry, anxious, exhausted and confused. Accept these emotions as they will lessen over time. Second, give yourself permission to feel and to function at a slower pace than what is normal for you. Third, share your feelings and concerns with your friends or family. Isolating yourself can raise stress levels among other negative things.
    Feel free to reach out and explore the world around you. As you previously mentioned, distracting yourself helps to ease your pain. Although, you may not feel like it, but start doing the things that you enjoy such as reading a book, watching movies, going out to dinner with friends, anything that brings you comfort and gives you a sense of peace.

    Although I do not know you Shawna, I do know the pain and emotions you are suffering. Please trust that one day it will get better. Think about divergent thinking, in that there are number of possibilities and solutions in dealing with your “problem”. Everyone’s situation is different and you need to do what is best for you.
    Thank you for sharing,
    Melanie Carra

    Works Cited
    Goldstein, E. B. (2011). Cognitive Psychology Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience. Belmont: Wadsworth.

  6. azm5730

    This may sound like an odd relation to your relationship troubles, but I found and many time still find myself doing the same things during my husbands deployments or TDY’s. Let me explain a little. As a prior active duty member and a current reservist people expect that when my husband leaves I should be find with it or its much easier because I myself have had to leave my family for months at a time. I would never fully compare my situation to yours seeing as at the end of the deployment my husband comes home. But as far as keeping busy goes it the same situation. I not only have to keep my mind occupied but also that of my children’s. On top of trying to stay busy and filling my head with other upcoming events and things I have planned with my children we count down events instead of day’s until he’s home. It’s very hard to keep busy and keep the thoughts of my husband out of my head (as far as he should be doing this or that with us) and it is impossible to redirect my children’s focus for the first few weeks. But eventually it dyes down things become “normal” and a routine is established. Keeping distracted is a great way to not only occupy your time but a better way of speeding up that little saying “time heals all wounds”.

  7. Ashley Heather Roomsburg

    It is amazing how learning in a psychology class can help you in the real world! This is definitely some useful knowledge! I will say, however, a break up and the emotions involved with it is a very complex “problem” so to speak. I saw a list online (wikihow) that had some of the steps you used, as well. It states to think but not overthink, which is what you did while doing the research. It seems you began to overthink at points, when you couldn’t find the exact answer you were looking for, but when you stopped thinking about it so much you found your own solution! It definitely seems in a strange way, even the subject matter we have been learning has helped distract you from the other problems (break up) within your life. Best of luck in your future endeavors!

  8. Traci A Pauley

    The most interesting thing I found about your blog post was your defining your break-up as a “problem”. Like it’s something that can be worked through and solved. I found it interesting that you researched ways other women had dealt with their break-ups. I can imagine you might have found ideas such as burning pictures of your partner, or maybe writing them a letter or writing your feelings down in journal. I bet start a new hobby was on the list and maybe even exercise was a suggestion. All of those things are fine ways to try to let go of a break-up but I’m not convinced they actually solve any type of problem.

    While reading more about problem solving, I found a list of problem-solving strategies that included the following; Algorithms (mathematical formulas that have a right answer), Heuristics (a “mental rule-of-thumb” strategy), Trial-and-Error, Insight (solving something the way you have in the past). (Cherry, Kendra. “Problem Solving Strategies.” Psychology., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2014.) None of these seem like ways to help get over a break-up.

    I’d suggest keeping your mind occupied so that time can heal the wound made. Good luck.

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