Problem Solving and Decision Making Presentation

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Slide 1 Notes

Problem Solving and Decision Making—Authored by Coy Stoker for PSY360 Cognitive Psychology while attending the University of Phoenix.

Slide 2 Notes

The personal, psychological representation of problem solving and decision making is mediated by several mental constructs, least of which the logic of Western thought as formulated by Aristotelian syllogistic thought (Syllogism, 2009). The subjective estimation of expected value versus expected utility plays a role in decision making (Willingham, 2007). Furthermore, Means-Ends Analysis can be used to map the path from our current state to our goal state in problem solving. Short-term/long-term memory, within the framework of the Modal Model of Memory, helps explain the limitations of memory and how these limitations effect assessment during decision making. In the same vein, the limitations of attention dictate the way in which meaning and physical characteristics effect our perception of current events. Lastly, the Whorfian Hypothesis stipulates that, to some degree, our individual reading of any given situation is the result of the language in which we coach the situation (i.e. language determines perception).

Slide 3 Notes

Alfred Johnson has owned and operated his small business for many years. After the economic downturn that followed 9-11 his business underwent several declines, culminating in last year’s huge deficit. Now Mr. Johnson is confronted with a decision to make: which employees to let go in order to ensure that his business can stay afloat. Last fiscal year Mr. Johnson’s business only made $184,041 in profit, but it took $201,416 in expenses to keep his business going. Many of the people on his staff have been there for many years, some are like family in fact. Some of them only make a few thousand dollars a year, but fulfill a major role in office production, if not economically (i.e. secretary or mail clerk). Others bring in most of the money, but also cost most of the money. Mr. Johnson will have to utilize his faculties of problem solving and decision making to determine which employees will need to be let go and which employees must be kept. During this process Mr. Johnson will need to determine the objective value and subjective utility of every employee, as determined by the cost-effectiveness outcomes (Bonds & Freedberg, 2001). He will employ some form of problem solving, which can be mapped through Means-Ends Analysis. He will utilize his faculties of memory, attention, and perception, as a derivative of language, which will culminate in a decision on each employee based on his problem solving abilities.    

Slide 4 Notes

As stated in the introduction Mr. Johnson has a profitability (or lack thereof) problem in his business. According to Kowalski and Westen (2005), “problem solving means transforming an initial state into a more satisfying state using operators.” As mentioned the current state of unprofitability has become unacceptable to Mr. Johnson. He realizes he must do something and soon. One strategy involves comparing the value versus the utility of each employee to determine who is worth keeping.

In our introduction chart it is clear as to how much productivity  each employee is responsible for and also the monetary amount that it costs the company to keep that person employed. By our chart it appears that the company lost about $17,000 this past year. The solution is simple, right? By looking at the figures, it should be easy to make the company profitable. Just by eliminating John and James, the company would save $18,000 per year and would be immediately in the black. Or perhaps Mr. Johnson couldn’t let go of his brother-in-law John, so instead he layed off James, Allia, and Audrey. Then the company would save about $22,000. That’s even better!

With the information provided, the assumption must be made that all the employees have similar utility value. Judging by the figures in the chart , the two layoff scenarios make sense and have transformed the initial unsatisfying state into a more satisfying state. Seems like a logical conclusion, right? Is the problem solved or have many influencing factors not been considered? The problem with this inductive line of reasoning is that although we have very specific observations about the income and expense value of each employee little else is known.

This line of reasoning is based on probable outcomes and has a significant potential for fallibility. For example suppose that the three employees on the bottom of the chart are all sales people paid largely by commission. And suppose that the three layed-off employees were among the best shop people. Has the company’s problem been solved? Not likely, the problem appears more complex. Another or combination of problem solving strategies appears necessary.

Slide 5 Notes

As mentioned in the previous slide the problem is more complex than shown by the figures on the chart. A more involved problem solving technique seems necessary. According to Willingham (2007) the means-end analysis is the most widely tested and perhaps the most broadly applied problem solving technique. This analysis involves basically a 5-step process as follows:

1.Compare the current (initial) state with the goal (desired) state to identify precise differences. If no difference, the problem is solved.

2.Set goals to resolve differences.

3.Identify possible operators (processes applied to change the shape of problems) and select the one most likely to reduce the differences. If more than one difference, select the operator most likely to reduce the most significant difference.

4.Apply the selected operator. Respond to any problems or roadblocks by establishing sub-goals on the path to achieving the end goal.

5.Continue to select and apply new operators to achieve sub-goals until all the differences are resolved between the current (initial) state with the goal (desired) state.

Many possible operators would likely be applied to Mr. Johnson’s business problem before the goal state could be achieved. Following are some examples:

1.The company could go to a four-day work week to save money provide that the same amount could be produced.

2.One of the high salaried/commissioned salespeople could be layed off and the other salespeople could pick up the accounts.

3. The company could move to a less expensive facility.

4. Benefits and wages could be cut across the board by 10%. That operator alone would seemingly eliminate the losses.

5. And many more operators could be applied…

Slide 6 Notes

Using neural pathways we absorb information from the environment through our senses. The stimuli that our senses detect turn into sensory memories. If the information needs to be used at that moment it moves into a short-term memory slot. An example of this would be when you need to remember an address or phone number. To turn these short term memories into long term memories the information has to be encoded—or broken down to remember specific things about it—an apple would be encoded by perhaps its size, color, and then they are stored. To retrieve memories those neural pathways are revisited…the strength of the neural pathway determines how quickly and well those memories are recalled.

Slide 7 Notes

Even though a large quantity of sensory information hits us regularly only a small portion of that information actually enters our awareness. This could be attributed to attention filtering. Early and late filter theories refer to when and where the filter works and is located in the processing stream. Early filter theories, early in the processing stream, argues stimuli are processed and “sensory characteristics (such as loudness or pitch) are determined before they hit the filter.” Late filter theories, occurring later in the processing stream, argue that physical and semantic characteristics are determined before they are allowed to hit the filter.

Another theory is a moveable filter, where the filter can be controlled either early or late in the processing stream depending on what the need is.

Slide 8 Notes

The Whorfian hypothesis was developed by Benjamin Whorf. Whorf’s view was that the way an individual perceives and thinks about the world is determined by language. Whorf used an example of the Eskimo words for snow. He determined that in the English language there is only one word for snow while in the Eskimo language there are many. Whorf argued that because the Eskimos had so many words for snow this allowed them to see snow differently than others who do not have as many words for it.

Slide 9 Notes

Wish we could say that Mr. Johnson’s dilemma was resolved and that our learning team came up with a great solution and was paid a handsome consulting fee as organizational psychologists. Well ok, so this was good practice. What we have learned in these chapters and in these past several weeks demonstrates just how complex problem solving and decision making can be even when the problems and decisions seem simple. As seen in this scenario with Mr. Johnson’s business, the most obvious solutions are not necessarily the best and often times are not very good at all. It takes more of our faculties to make decisions and resolve problems than is self-evident. For now Mr. Johnson’s solution weighs in the balances as he decides whether or not to lay off his brother-in-law….

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Bonds, D.E., Freedberg, K.A. (2001). Combining utility measurements: Exploring different approaches. Disease Management & Health Outcomes, 9(9), 507-516. Retrieved August 14, 2009, from EBSCOHost Database.

Kowalski, R., & Westen, D. (2005). Psychology (4th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley

Syllogism. (2009). Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, 1. doi: Reference Entry.

Willingham, D. T. (2007). Cognition: The thinking animal. New York, NY: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Presentation Topic

  • Select a scenario in which problem solving strategies are utilized to achieve a goal (e.g. resolving conflict in the work place or planning a wedding for two individuals that have diverse backgrounds).
  • Prepare a 10- to 12-slide Microsoft® PowerPoint® presentation in which you illustrate your selected scenario with presenter notes.
  • Address the following items:
  • Describe your scenario.
    • Select two major decisions that must be made to solve your problem. For each one of your decisions address the following:
  • Describe the decision.
    • Discuss the process that must be taken to make the decision.
    • Explain the role that inductive and deductive reasoning play in the decision-making process.
    • Analyze how emotion and culture affected the process.
  • Describe the problem solving strategies that you would use to resolve the challenges associated with your selected scenario.
    • Analyze the role of perception, attention, memory, and language played in your selected scenario.

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