Thinking Project

created by: Brenda Munoz Saldana

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My concept or mental grouping of college is one with a large campus bustling with young adults and an atmosphere that encourages free thinking and use of imagination. My prototype or best example of college is one with a colorful set of buildings, diverse student body, green landscape, and nearby city life.

Problem Solving Techniques

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Trial and Error

I could use trial and error when choosing a college by randomly researching colleges I had heard about. After every search, I could decide if its the right one or not, and keep going until I found one I felt was right for me. This process is slow and may not guarantee an answer in reasonable time.


I could also use a step by step algorithm to decide. This is the format for most college search websites and is the technique I have been using so far. You decide upon specific characteristics and details you must have, and then filter out the colleges which lack them. This is sure to get a narrow list of colleges that meet all your needs, though you may have to make sacrifices since it is unlikely a college with have 100% of your preferences. This process is quite tedious but it will guarantee a solution and it is much easier when you use a website like College Board that offers a comparison tool.


This is faster than an algorithm because it does not analyze every detail. For example, you might just focus specifically on location or major or school program so that the decision making process is much quicker and narrows down your options to a much smaller sample. Though it is quick, it is not recommended for such important decisions like matters of college.


Another technique I could use is to just stop thinking about it and let it come to me. I might sleep on it or let my brain process the options unconsciously. Then, after an unpredictable amount of time, my right temporal lobe will spike in activity and I will know what college or major to choose.

Confirmation Bias

I may be stuck between two schools and try to convince myself that one is better than the other by only looking for information and asking people that confirm my belief. Though they may both be great schools, I would try to justify my decision/preference by rejecting any facts that contradict my ideas and searching for facts that support my proposition that one college is better.

Fixation/Mental Set

I may become fixated on the idea that colleges are supposed to four-year and not even consider the option of a community/junior college, online institution, state university, etc.

If I have noticed that taking high school courses helps me find what interests me and then more easily decide on a major, I may not consider the areas of study that my high school does not offer if the area is relatively new or my school does not have the faculty or resources to host it.


If when visiting a campus, I get a gut feeling that that college is just not the right one or is, then I would be basing my decision on instinct, rather than rationality. Though it not based on fact or any real substance, intuition could help me make snap judgments and choices about college details, though I would not know what made me feel that way.

Representative Heuristic

Though quick, this problem solving technique is error-prone. If my peers all seem to be heading towards engineering, I may overestimate the number of students in the nation pursuing that major. So I would be unable to correctly predict the probability of other students at my school who are also going into engineering fields because my past experiences tell me that many people are interested in it, however there are less people going into that major compared to others like business. Decisions or assumptions made using this heuristic would mostly be faulty.

Availability Heuristic

If I am considering attending a college in or near a city such as New York, for which I have many examples from media, I may overestimate the size of the population there or the number of students who could be attending the university. I have many memories of the city being full of people, so I may be misled by the available thoughts in my head to think the school and city would be overcrowded.


I may be overconfident about a chosen major or specialized area like psychiatry to later find out I want to focus on a different major or area of study like experimental psychology. Or I may overestimate my ability to know what the future me wants, so my choices of college or major may not match up. This cognitive downfall should be suppressed by being deliberate about decisions and taking a realistic or skeptic perspective when making choices.

Belief Perseverance

If I form the idea that I do not think any colleges in Texas will suit my needs, I will reject any information like decent colleges with psychology programs that contradict my belief. It will be harder to break my assumption than it was to form it. This is similar to confirmation bias, though it focuses on how I would deny contradicting information rather than how I would search for confirming information.
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In deciding UT at Austin is probably the college I will attend, I had to sacrifice my idea of moving out of Texas and back to California. I also had to sacrifice my idea of attending a college with ethnic diversity considering approximately 50% of students are Caucasian. Though the compensations were not preferable, UT Austin is still a great option considering its psychology program with courses on cognition, neuroscience, etc. and well liked reputation.