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Essay Example: Mental Processes Involved in Problem-Solving

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Wesleyan University
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The process that is involved when trying to find solution or solutions to problems is called problem-solving. When anyone is faced with any kind of problems, it is his or her wish to come up with solutions that best resolves the problem. However, the strategy to solve the problems depends on each problem as the problems are caused by many unique situations (Cherry, 2017). Sometimes, people opt to search for solutions that have been used by other people before to solve the same problems while others use creativity to come up with solutions to their problems.

According to Mayer (2002), when a person is facing a problem and the problem solver does not have a known solution, he/she resolves to a process called problem-solving which is a cognitive process with the aim to come up with a solution. The definition of problem-solving by Mayer has three parts. It is cognitive, it is a process, and it is directed (Mayer, 2002). Cognitive means that it is something that happens in the mind of the problem solver. It is a process because some steps or manipulations take place in the mind. Finally, it is directed because the mind is aimed at achieving something or a goal which is solving the problem.

The steps involved when solving a problem forms a cycle, and thus the process is sometimes known as a problem-solving cycle. For a good solution to solving problems, the steps involved in the process have to follow a sequence. If the problem solver attempts to skip some steps or change the sequence, then a good solution may not be achieved. The steps and the sequence they should follow have been achieved through contributions by expert psychologists (Psychological Steps Involved in Problem Solving, n.d.). Following, are the steps in problem-solving in the correct sequence that should be used while applying them.

Problem identification is a step that any problem solver cannot omit. Realizing that there is a problem is always the first step which leads to attempting to solve it. Here the problem is identified as well as the source of the problem. However, many people often identify the wrong cause of the problem. If this happens, the other steps even if they are followed in the correct order may not solve the problem (Psychological Steps Involved in Problem Solving, n.d.). For instance, let's assume a driver is driving on a rainy day but an all weather road. Every time the driver steps on the brake pedal, the vehicle skids and this can cause an accident. The problem, in this case, is skidding on brakes application. This could be caused by several factors such as the tires could be worn out, the vehicles ABS could be faulty, or the road could be too slippery. If the driver does not identify the real cause of skidding, then a good solution may not be achieved.

Understanding the problem is the next step at which the problem should be properly defined. Looking at the previous example, and assuming that the problem is a slippery road, we need to understand what it is that the driver is doing to cause the skidding. The road is slippery, yes, but the driver could also be driving too fast. The driver could also be applying the brakes too abruptly or too hard despite the road being slippery. Those are some of the questions that the driver needs to answer in this step before moving to the next step.

Coming up with a strategy entails the phase where the problem solver thinks of the steps to be taken to solve the problem depending on the situation. A persons preference will also play a big role in determining the next step. In the previous example, after identifying that the vehicle is skidding because the road is slippery, he/she might choose to reduce the speed, he can also choose to use a different road, he can choose to wait for the road to dry among other solutions. However, the solution will depend on the situation and other available options.

Organizing information entails organizing the information about what is known about the problem is next thing to do before deciding the best solution. The problem solver has to know what he/she knows about the problem. If not much is known about the problem, then a good solution may not be found (Cherry, 2002). In other words, an accurate solution is achieved depending on the available information. If the information is minimal, the solution will be less accurate.

Resources Allocation is another step where the resources to allocate are determined. These are resources like time and money (Psychological Steps Involved in Problem Solving, n.d.). For instance, let's assume a businessman is doing some negotiations on the phone, but the seller from the other side of the phone has some payment issues with the businessman. Depending on the type of deal and how it will benefit the businessman, he may decide to go in person to the seller. However, he must consider the issue of time and money for the deal to remain economically viable.

Progress Monitoring different problems have different solutions and different time flames to solve. Some problems are solved within seconds while others take years to solve. It is therefore important to keep track of the progress. For long-term problems, it is advisable to document the progress when trying to find a solution. (Psychological Steps Involved in Problem Solving, n.d.). For instance, a student who is failing exams because of not allocating enough study time must check progress once they allocate more study time. Failure to document their progress, the goal may not be achieved.

Results Evaluation after coming up with a solution to solve the problem, a good problem solver should check the results and determine whether it is the best solution. If the solution is not satisfactory, the steps can be repeated until a satisfactory solution is reached (Cherry, 2017). The discussed are not the only steps that can be used to solve problems. Some people have their way of solving problems. However, from a psychological point of view, when the above steps are followed keenly and in the correct order, many problems that seem difficult may be controllable at ease. If many people follow the best approach to solve problems, then the society would be a better place.

Relationship between Cognition and Emotions

Western philosophers have for a long time been fascinated by the relationship that exists between cognition and emotion and much of it permeating brain science in general. Damages to specific parts of the brain can result in variations in cognitive and emotional behavior as described by early reports such as the case of Phineas Gage. The human understanding of the brain has been shaped by the concept of functional localization, and in the process, there has been an attempt for the separation of the brain responsible for emotions and that of cognition (Wargo, 2010). Developing an argument on the present knowledge of the function and connectivity of the brain, it can be divided into cognitive and affective regions. There is increasing emphasis by researchers that there is an important interaction between cognitive and emotion systems. In this essay, it will be pointed out that there are no separate systems attributed to emotion and cognition since the emergence of complex cognitive, emotional behavior are derived from a dynamic interaction between various brain networks. It can be proposed that emotions and cognition immensely interaction in the brain in addition to their integration that results in behavior.

Cognition is used in various processes such as memory, language, attention, planning, and problem-solving. Most of the cognitive processes are considered to entail sophisticated functions which are possibly uniquely human (Eysenck & Keane, 2010). There is usually the involvement of the controlled process such when the pursuit of goals needs to be shielded from interference. An example of a prototypical concerning cognitive process's neural correlate is the maintenance of cells firing in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex since there will be retention of information briefly in the mind. Literature has explained that cognitive process engages the curtail regions of the brain (Wargo, 2010). There has been relative agreement on the constituents of cognition which can be said for emotions since most researchers have use concepts of drive and motivation in the description. Emotions can be described as states evoked from rewards and punishments. It is possible to describe the brain systems responsible for emotion and cognition interactions. These include perception and attention, learning and memory, and behavioral inhibition and working memory.

First, we look at perception and attention. There is a link between viewing a visual stimulus that is emotion-laden and the extensive visual system activation. For example, viewing faces characterized by emotional expressions can lead to heightened responses relative to viewing looking neutral faces through someone's ventral occipitotemporal visual cortex (Eysenck & Keane, 2010). The enhanced visual activation experienced when looking at the emotional stimuli is in line with the observed enhancements in behavioral performance in some visual tasks. For example, detection of angry and happy faces is easy in visual search tasks and also various emotional stimuli in comparison to neutral stimuli. The research was conducted on the attentional blink paradigm, and the respondents are requested to indicate when two targets occur when there is presentation of a rapid stream of visual stimuli. It was recorded that respondents are more likely to miss one target follows another by a brief delay with the possibility they had blinked. This attention blink is thought to be a reflection of the capacity-limited processing stage. The emotional stimuli have been shown to modulate attentional blinks since participants can better detect a target is in an emotion-laden word as compared when in a neutral word (Eysenck & Keane, 2010). This, therefore, provides evidence on the link between attention, perception, and emotions. Another example is when unilateral inattention patients are better at detection of faces that are happy or angry as compared to neutral ones. These outcomes are consistent with the notion that emotional faces potentially direct allocation of emotions.

While looking at the memory and learning, a study on classical fear conditioning proposes there is involvement of amygdala in acquiring, storing and expressing conditioned fear responses. For instance, there is a situation when an animal learns that a neutral stimulus can predict an aversive event. Fear conditioning entails the involvement of a more primitive type of effective learning, instructed fear is an illustration of a case in which there is the explicit interaction between cognition and emotion (Pessoa, 2008).

To illustrate another interaction between cognition and emotions, it is important to evaluate behavioral inhibition and working memory. Behavioral inhibition is an essential dimension of cognition. Response inhibition which are the procedures necessary to annul an intended action is suggested to entail prefrontal cortex control regions. The go/no-go tasks are used in the investigation of response inhibition in which participants are requested motor response after viewing the go stimulus and withhold responses when they view no-go stimulus (Pessoa, 2008). Working memory is also a crucial cognitive operation entailing the maintenance and updates of information in mind in the situation there is no availability of information to the sensory systems. The working memory also exhibits the presence of interaction between cognition and emotions. For instance, respondents were asked to view short videos with the goal of inducing emotional states....

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