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Chapter: Psychology: Thinking

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Problem Solving: Finding a Path Toward a Goal

We’ve now considered three types of directed thinking—judgment, reasoning, and decision making.

PROBLEM SOLVING : FINDING A PATH TOWARD A GOAL

We’ve now considered three types of directed thinking—judgment, reasoning, and decision making. But there’s a fourth form of thinking that we also need to consider: problem solving. Psychologists use this term to describe the thinking we do when weknow what our goal is, but we need to find a sequence of steps that will move us toward that goal. Sometimes the problems we confront are practical: How can you fix that leaky faucet? Sometimes the problems are social: How can you persuade your friends to stop teasing you? Sometimes the problems are small, and the solution is obvious: How can you repair that torn fingernail? Sometimes the problems are huge, and the solution unclear: How can we avoid the many problems associated with global warming? In all cases, though, we want to ask: How does problem solving proceed?

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