Problem Solving

Caleb Hagan

What is Problem solving?

"Problem solving refers to thinking and behavior directed toward attaining a goal that is not readily available." Simply put it's the process your mind uses to complete a goal or challenge.

The Frontal Lobe

The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that is responsible for problem solving. It also controls motor function and is what maintains our personality and ability to communicate.

There Are Four Main Methods Of Problem Solving

Trial and Error

This method involves trying multiple solutions and seeing what works. Due to the fact that multiple solutions are being attempted there is a good chance of failure and isn't always the best option. Trial and error is best used to fine tune solutions.


Algorithms are guaranteed to work, it is a procedure that when followed step by step properly will always produce the correct solution. Just because an algorithm may be guaranteed to produce a solution that doesn't mean it is the most efficient method.


Heuristics are considered to be a general rule of thumb strategy that could just as easily fail as it could succeed. Even though heuristics don't guarantee a solution they do tend to simplify the problem solving process. This is effective because it is flexible and allows for multiple methods to reach the solution such as working backwards from where you want to end up to where you are starting at.

Insight and Intuition

This method of problem solving is when the solution comes to you as a sudden realization or flash of insight which might have come about from looking at the problem from another angle. An insight doesn't come about from you consciously thinking about a solution, meaning it happens naturally by your mind and you are unsure about how you arrived at your conclusion. This is what intuition is, coming to a conclusion without being consciously aware of the thought process involved.

Problem Solving Obstacles

Thinking outside the box

While knowing how to do something can be beneficial it can also be detrimental to solving some problems. If we continuously do something one way we may not be open to a new method which might be the better way to go about solving the problem. This is why 'thinking outside of the box" is important, it means to go outside your comfort zone and try something new.

Functional Fixedness

This is when an object is only used in the way that the individual is used to or feels that it can be. This means that its possible to miss out other possible ways to use the object.

Mental Set

A mental set is when you rely on something that has worked in the past to continue. This could be seen as the "If it aint broke don't fix it" approach. This can be detrimental to problem solving because it can prevent the individual from seeing other possible solutions.


Healthline Editorial Team. (n.d.). Frontal lobe. Retrieved October 13, 2015.

Hockenbury, D., & Hockenbury, S. (2014). Memory. In Discovering psychology (Sixth ed.). New York, New York: Worth.