How do you solve problems? Are you the type to approach a situation step by step or do you base your decisions off of intuition? Has it ever occurred to you that the environment you grew up in could have affected how you solve problems? In a study conducted for the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, it digs into how environments play a role in our cognitive abilities.
The study took children of age two and analyzed their environmental factors that included earned income and parental engagement and reassured these children at the age of four. Results showed that children who were exposed to harsher environments (i.e lower socioeconomic status) and higher levels of disengagement with parents had worse visual problem-solving skills.
Lacking problem-solving skills can be problematic. Especially if you’re a college student bombarded with an intense work-load and other responsibilities. How you approach a problem can differ from another person but are similar in approach. First, in the initial state, you need to use prior knowledge and resources to make your way to your goal state. In order to carry out your goal, you need to know your available tools, also known as operators. Along the way, you might face some limitations but all paths have obstacles along the way we must conquer to reach our end goal.
Some problems require past experiences such as, beliefs and habits in which you can use as a foundation and resource for new problems. Much of our knowledge is stored in our long term memory which is essential for problem-solving and there are two general approaches that are used to solve problems. One being algorithms which are a set of rules that when applied correctly always lead to a solution and the other being heuristics which are general strategies that serve as shortcuts. Although heuristics are a faster way to get to a solution they do not always guarantee a solution.
Referring back to the study, children who lack problem-solving skills can have similar issues throughout their life ultimately affecting their emotional, cognitive, and physical development.
So what are some ways you problem solve? Do you approach it in a systematic way or do you make more impulsive decisions? Comment below and share an experience in which you had to problem solve and how you did it.
Suor, J.H., Sturge‐Apple, M.L., Davies, P.T. and Cicchetti, D. (2017), A life history approach to delineating how harsh environments and hawk temperament traits differentially shape children’s problem‐solving skills. J Child Psychol Psychiatr, 58: 902-909.
Robinson-Riegler, G., & Robinson-Riegler, B. (2008). Cognitive psychology: Applying the science of the mind. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon.