October 16, 2013

Problem-Solving Inadequacies

All critical and scientific thinking is, in a fashion, problem solving. There are numerous psychological disruptions that cause inadequacies in problem solving. Psychologist Barry Singer has demonstrated that when given the task of selecting the right answer to a problem after being told whether particular guesses are right or wrong, people:

  • Immediately form a hypothesis and look only for examples to confirm it.

  • Do not seek evidence to disprove the hypothesis.

  • Are very slow to change the hypothesis even when it is obviously wrong.

  • If the information is too complex, adopt overly-simple hypotheses or strategies for solutions.

  • If there is no solution, if the problem is a trick and “right” and “wrong” is given at random, form hypotheses about coincidental relationships they observed. Causality is always found. (Singer and Abell 1981, p. 18)

If this is the case with humans in general, then we all must make the effort to overcome these inadequacies in solving the problems of science and of life.

We all resist fundamental paradigm change. Social scientist Jay Stuart Snelson calls this resistance an ideological immune system: “educated, intelligent, and successful adults rarely change their most fundamental presuppositions” (1993, p. 54).

There is also a strong negative correlation between intelligence and the ability to consider other alternatives. That is, the higher the IQ, the greater the potential for ideological immunity. And this is a big obstacle in the acceptance and spreading of a new theory, especially in science.