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## General Problem Solver (A. Newell & H. Simon)

The General Problem Solver (GPS) was a theory of human problem solving stated in the form of a simulation program (Ernst & Newell, 1969; Newell & Simon, 1972). This program and the associated theoretical framework had a significant impact on the subsequent direction of cognitive psychology. It also introduced the use of productions as a method for specifying cognitive models.

The theoretical framework was information processing and attempted to explain all behavior as a function of memory operations, control processes and rules. The methodology for testing the theory involved developing a computer simulation and then comparing the results of the simulation with human behavior in a given task. Such comparisons also made use of protocol analysis (Ericsson & Simon, 1984) in which the verbal reports of a person solving a task are used as indicators of cognitive processes.

GPS was intended to provide a core set of processes that could be used to solve a variety of different types of problems. The critical step in solving a problem with GPS is the definition of the problem space in terms of the goal to be achieved and the transformation rules. Using a means-end-analysis approach, GPS would divide the overall goal into subgoals and attempt to solve each of those. Some of the basic solution rules include: (1) transform one object into another, (2) reduce the different between two objects, and (3) apply an operator to an object. One of the key elements need by GPS to solve problems was an operator-difference table that specified what transformations were possible.

## Application

While GPS was intended to be a general problem-solver, it could only be applied to “well-defined” problems such as proving theorems in logic or geometry, word puzzles and chess.  However, GPS was the basis other theoretical work by Newell et al. such as  SOAR  and  GOMS . Newell (1990) provides a summary of how this work evolved.

Here is a trace of GPS solving the logic problem to transform L1= R*(-P => Q) into L2=(Q \/ P)*R (Newell & Simon, 1972, p420):

Goal 1: Transform L1 into LO Goal 2: Reduce difference between L1 and L0 Goal 3: Apply R1 to L1 Goal 4: Transform L1 into condition (R1) Produce L2: (-P => Q) *R Goal 5: Transform L2 into L0 Goal 6: Reduce difference between left(L2) and left(L0) Goal 7: Apply R5 to left(L2) Goal 8: Transform left(L2) into condition(R5) Goal 9: Reduce difference between left(L2) and condition(R5) Rejected: No easier than Goal 6 Goal 10: Apply R6 to left(L2) Goal 11: Transform left(L2) into condition(R5) Produce L3: (P \/ Q) *R Goal 12: Transform L3 into L0 Goal 13: Reduce difference between left(L3) and left(L0) Goal 14: Apply R1 to left(L3) Goal 15: Transform left(L3) into condition(R1) Produce L4: (Q \/ P)*R Goal 16: Transform L4 into L0 Identical, QED

• Problem-solving behavior involves means-ends-analysis, i.e., breaking a problem down into subcomponents (subgoals) and solving each of those.
• Ericsson, K. & Simon, H. (1984). Protocol Analysis. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
• Ernst, G. & Newell, A. (1969). GPS: A Case Study in Generality and Problem Solving. New York: Academic Press.
• Newell, A. (1990). Unified Theories of Cognition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
• Newell, A. & Simon, H. (1972). Human Problem Solving. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
• Sites at Penn State

## Psych 256: Introduction to Cognitive Psychology

Making connections between theory and reality, financial crisis: newell and simon’s approach.

Financial Crisis:  Newell and Simon’s Approach

Everyday problems are the circumstances that we find ourselves in on a daily basis that involve using skills, knowledge we have accumulated, and resources that we have available to us in order to reach our goals.  As a college student, mother of five children, wife, and an Assistant Manager for a retail chain, my life is busy with a wide range of responsibilities related to school, home, work, and friends.  Throughout the course of any given day, I handle a variety of decisions and problems automatically.  At times, however, situations arise which I cannot solve “automatically”.  In those situations the use of problem-solving techniques becomes an invaluable asset that allows me to make the best choices and decisions available.

With that being said, this week I have been faced with a significant problem.  As I was trying to complete my registration for the summer semester, I was notified that my financial aid is about to run dry.  As many of you know, the federal government awards undergraduates a lifetime maximum of \$57,500 in Stafford Loans.  Furthermore, I have just about enough left to finish another semester.  I am approximately 12 classes away from graduating.  So we can see where my problem lies, “where do I go from here?”  According to our textbook, Newell and Simon saw problems in terms of an initial state (conditions at the beginning of the problem) – my financial aid running out – and a goal state (the solution of the problem) – receiving the funding to graduate (Goldstein, 2011).

Newell and Simon conceived of problem solving as involving a sequence of choices of steps, with each step creating an intermediate state – conditions after each step is made toward solving a problem – (Goldstein, 2011).  Therefore, I need to explore all of my options in order to reach my goal state.  When trying to solve my problem, I need to search the problem space to find a solution.  According to Newell and Simon, I must find a solution through the use of a strategy called means-end analysis – a way of solving a problem in which the goal is to reduce the difference between the initial and goal states – (Goldstein, 2011).

In doing so, I must create subgoals which are goals that help create intermediate states that get me closer to my goal (Goldstein, 2011).  My subgoals include finding out what is made available to me through Penn State, a possible Work-Study, any scholarships I may qualify for, and applying for a student loan through a bank or credit union. Through the use of my subgoals, I can determine which is the best possible solution for me to take in order to reach my goal state; meaning I can eliminate the options that will not work in my best interest.

One of the main contributions of Newell and Simon’s approach to problem solving is that it provides a way to specify the possible pathways from the initial to goal states (Goldstein, 2011).  Everyday problems vary in terms of possible solutions that we can reach.  Sometimes the problem may have a clear outcome or goal state that we will work toward.   It is not unusual for problems to arise when you are working towards a goal.  As these barriers are encountered, problem-solving strategies can be utilized to help you overcome the obstacle and achieve your goal.

## Works Cited

Goldstein, E. B. (2011). Cognitive Psychology Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience. Belmont: Wadsworth.

## 1 thought on “ Financial Crisis: Newell and Simon’s Approach ”

Melanie, I found it fascinating how you connected your issues with school finances to Newell and Simon’s information processing approach to problem solving. I do wonder, however, if approaching a problem such as yours with a strictly information-processing frame of mind would hinder the ability to see any obstacles to the solving of the problem. I am especially interested in the Gestalt psychological problem of fixation, which would obstruct the ability to view the problem from a novel perspective. ( http://rockfordkingsley.org/AnEffectiveYou/ProblemSolving/Step4DevelopStrategiesToSolveTheProblem/Step4ObstaclestoProblemSolving/tabid/443/Default.aspx ) While it does seem that you have many helpful subgoals in place, I wonder if there are any alternatively unique ways in which to raise money for school that have not been explored due to our very human tendency to pigeon-hole our thought processes into one aspect of a problem. It is also interesting to contemplate whether you have solved a financial problem that is similar in the past. Perhaps if you have ever run into financial trouble in the past, and overcome this challenge, you can use this previous experience in order to decide upon the best course of action for your current situation. This idea would tie into the idea of analogical problem solving. Our text suggests asking oneself, “Can I apply the same methods to solving this problem?” (Goldstein, 2011) I initially hoped you were an expert in the field of finance, since this may make solving your monetary problems much easier. The increased knowledge about the way finances work, and the specific organization of such knowledge could be beneficial in discovering a solution. (Goldstein, 2011) It seemed comforting to know that being an expert is not necessarily beneficial when trying to come up with innovative approaches to a problem. (Goldstein, 2011) Expert or novice in finance, absolutely take it slow, and cover all your bases. ( http://rockfordkingsley.org/AnEffectiveYou/ProblemSolving/Step4DevelopStrategiesToSolveTheProblem/Step4ObstaclestoProblemSolving/tabid/443/Default.aspx )

Goldstein, E. B. (2011). Cognitive psychology: connecting mind, research, and everyday experience (3rd ed.). Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Step 4: Obstacles to Problem Solving. (n.d.). Step 4: Obstacles to Problem Solving. Retrieved April 19, 2014, from http://rockfordkingsley.org/AnEffectiveYou/ProblemSolving/Step4DevelopStrategiesToSolveTheProblem/Step4ObstaclestoProblemSolving/tabid/443/Default.aspx

## Describe Newell’s approach to problem solving. Explain the general problem solving strategies of Wickelgren.

According to Newell’s approach to problem solving, people solve problems by searching in a problem space. The problem space consists of the initial (current) state, the goal state, and all possible states in between. The actions that people take in order to move from one state to another are known as operators. Consider the eight puzzle. The problem space for the eight puzzle consists of the initial arrangement of tiles, the desired arrangement of tiles (normally 1, 2, 3 ….8), and all the possible arrangements that can be arrived at in between.

However, problem spaces can be very large so the key issue is how people navigate their way through the possibilities, given their limited working memory capacities. In other words, how do they choose operators? For many problems we possess domain knowledge that helps us decide what to do.

But for novel problems Newell and Simon proposed that operator selection is guided by cognitive short-cuts, known as heuristics. The simplest heuristic is repeat state avoidance or backup avoidance 1, whereby individuals prefer not to take an action that would take them back to a previous problem state.

This unhelpful when a person has taken an inappropriate action and actually needs to go back a step or more. Another heuristic is difference reduction, or hill- climbing, whereby people take the action that leads to the biggest similarity between current state and goal state.

## Wickelgren argues that there are five general problem solving techniques for searching the state action tree.

Inference: The process of deriving•the strict logical consequences of assumed premises.

State Evaluation and Hill Climbing: State evaluation is evaluating possible operations ,to help determine paths to the goal-expression. Hill climbing is systematically choosing one of these paths.

Sub-Goals: Another strategy that Wickelgren presents is creating “sub-goals”, or breaking the problem into simpler problems.

Contradiction: A third strategy is “Contradiction”, a method of problem-solving in which one proves that the goal could no% possibly be obtained from the givens.

Working Backwards: A fourth strategy is “Working backwards”, an effective strategy for problems that have a uniquely defined goal and for which several givens must be used to derive the goal.

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## Discuss the Emotional, Intellectural, Expressive and Environmental Blocks in Problem Solving.

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#### IMAGES

1. A schematic of Newell and Simon’s (1972) ge neral theory of problem

2. Theory of problem framing. (Adapted from Newell and Simon 1972

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4. Newell's Approach To Problem Solving

5. Outline of a problem solver. Source: Newell and Simon (1972, p. 289

6. Newell's model of interacting constraints adapted to illustrate the

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6. RANKING SHAPES

1. Soar (cognitive architecture)

Soar [1] is a cognitive architecture, [2] originally created by John Laird, Allen Newell, and Paul Rosenbloom at Carnegie Mellon University. (Rosenbloom continued to serve as co-principal investigator after moving to Stanford University, then to the University of Southern California 's Information Sciences Institute.)

2. Problem solving

Problem solving is the process of achieving a goal by overcoming obstacles, a frequent part of most activities. Problems in need of solutions range from simple personal tasks (e.g. how to turn on an appliance) to complex issues in business and technical fields. The former is an example of simple problem solving (SPS) addressing one issue ...

3. Means-ends analysis

The MEA technique as a problem-solving strategy was first introduced in 1961 by Allen Newell and Herbert A. Simon in their computer problem-solving program General Problem Solver (GPS). [3] [4] In that implementation, the correspondence between differences and actions, also called operators, is provided a priori as knowledge in the system.

4. The Problems with Problem Solving: Reflections on the Rise, Current

book, Human problem solving (Newell & Simon, 1972; henceforth HPS). Their paradigm dominated the study of problem solving for almost forty years, from their first article on the topic (Newell, Shaw & Simon, 1958) to the middle of the 1990s. Many expected their paradigm to generate a general theory of how people solve unfamiliar problems.

5. Herbert A. Simon

Herbert Alexander Simon (June 15, 1916 - February 9, 2001) was an American whose work also influenced the fields of . His primary research interest was within organizations and he is best known for the theories of " [5] [6] Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in computer science in 1975.

6. PDF COGNITION Chapter 9: Problem Solving Fundamentals of Cognitive Psychology

Fall 2013 Defining a problem There is a problem when a goal is not immediately able to be achieved (e.g., Reitman, 1965; Newell & Simon, 1972). Problem-solving is the identification and selection of solutions to the problem. Problem Solving Directed and Undirected Thinking Directed: Goal-oriented and rational Requires a clear well-defined goal

7. General Problem Solver (A. Newell & H. Simon)

The General Problem Solver (GPS) was a theory of human problem solving stated in the form of a simulation program (Ernst & Newell, 1969; Newell & Simon, 1972). This program and the associated theoretical framework had a significant impact on the subsequent direction of cognitive psychology.

8. Problem Solving

To illustrate; a child trying to find the sum of two numbers, a person who has lost his keys, a chess player determining the best next move, a firefighter attempting to extinguish a blaze, a manager needing to increase the motivation of her team, a military patrol needing to cross a body of water without appropriate equipment using only found ma...

9. (PDF) Newell and Simon's Logic Theorist: Historical Background and

Leo Gugerty Clemson University Abstract Fifty years ago, Newell and Simon (1956) invented a "thinking machine" called the Logic Theorist. The Logic Theorist was a computer program that could...

10. Problem Solving

Problem space theory In 1972, Allen Newell and Herbert Simon published the book Human Problem Solving, in which they outlined their problem space theory of problem solving. In this theory, people solve problems by searching in a problem space.

11. Logic Theorist

Logic Theorist is a computer program written in 1956 by Allen Newell, Herbert A. Simon, and Cliff Shaw. [1] It was the first program deliberately engineered to perform automated reasoning, and has been described as "the first artificial intelligence program".

12. Human Problem Solving

The topic of this article may not meet Wikipedia's notability guideline for books. ... Human Problem Solving (1972) is a book by Allen Newell and Herbert A. Simon. See also. problem solving; References This page was last edited on 21 March 2021, at 23:56 (UTC). Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution ...

13. PDF UC Merced

Newell & Simon's (1972) concept of search has proved very useful for describing problem solving but it is not a testable theory. We point out that without testable theories, thought about problem solving cannot progress through the interaction of thesis and antithesis.

14. Financial Crisis: Newell and Simon's Approach

One of the main contributions of Newell and Simon's approach to problem solving is that it provides a way to specify the possible pathways from the initial to goal states (Goldstein, 2011). Everyday problems vary in terms of possible solutions that we can reach. Sometimes the problem may have a clear outcome or goal state that we will work toward.

15. Newell's Approach to Problem Solving

29 1.8K views 1 year ago In this video we will discuss about Newell's approach, which is based on this problem space hypothesis, propounds that the knowledge level rationalises behaviour in...

16. Symbolic artificial intelligence

Unlike Simon and Newell, John McCarthy felt that machines did not need to simulate the exact mechanisms of human thought, but could instead try to find the essence of abstract reasoning and problem-solving with logic, regardless of whether people used the same algorithms. His laboratory at Stanford focused on using formal logic to solve a wide variety of problems, including knowledge ...

17. Allen Newell

Allen Newell (March 19, 1927 - July 19, 1992) was an American researcher in computer science and cognitive psychology at the RAND Corporation and at Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science, Tepper School of Business, and Department of Psychology.He contributed to the Information Processing Language (1956) and two of the earliest AI programs, the Logic Theory Machine (1956 ...

18. Newell's Approach To Problem Solving

of 4 Newell's Problem Solving Approach The areas of exploration in critical thinking include: critical thinking errands move of information mastery (improvement of abilities, from controlled to programmed handling) Problem tackling is: Goal Directed Cognitive - not a programmed cycle

19. Describe Newell's approach to problem solving. Explain the general

According to Newell's approach to problem solving, people solve problems by searching in a problem space. The problem space consists of the initial (current) state, the goal state, and all possible states in between. The actions that people take in order to move from one state to another are known as operators. Consider the eight puzzle.

20. Newell's Approach to Problem Solving

Newell's Problem Solving Approach. The areas of exploration in critical thinking include: critical thinking errands move of information mastery (improvement of abilities, from controlled to programmed handling) Problem tackling is: Goal Directed Cognitive - not a programmed cycle There is just an issue to settle with the singular misses the mark on significant information Gestalt approach ...

21. Newell's algorithm

Newell's Algorithm is a 3D computer graphics procedure for elimination of polygon cycles in the depth sorting required in hidden surface removal. It was proposed in 1972 by brothers Martin Newell and Dick Newell, and Tom Sancha, while all three were working at CADCentre . In the depth sorting phase of hidden surface removal, if two polygons ...

22. Newell

Newell (surname) Newell Brands, an American consumer products company. Newell's Old Boys, an Argentine soccer team. USS Newell (DE-322), U.S. Navy Edsall-class destroyer escort.

23. (PDF) The Problems with Problem Solving: Reflections on the Rise

Newell and Simon's main enduring contribution is the theory that people solve problems via heuristic search through a problem space. This theory remains the centerpiece of our understanding of...