Preliminary Investigation of Real-World Problem Solving with and without Computers

Volume II: Complete Results

by Harold Sackman


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Part of an NSF research project on "Studies in the Psychology of Man-Computer Problem Solving," this pilot investigation compared problem solving with and without computers, investigated real-world problem solving, and tested the effectiveness of a proposed nine-stage model of real-world problem solving stemming from systems and planning theory. The pilot subjects were 8 RAND professionals and 11 UCLA graduate students, contributing a total of 37 problems. Each subject served as his own control by reporting a computer and a non-computer problem essential for his job or position. Data from a self-administered questionnaire were subjected to extensive statistical analyses. Computer-aided and non-computer problem solving were shown to have fundamentally similar stages and dynamics, and a provisional push-pull theory of insight was suggested. Computer assistance was virtually nonexistent in early problem-finding and problem-planning stages, and appeared most frequently in later solution-testing stages. Overdependence on available software led to procrustean problem solving and inhibition of creativity. Application of computers to real-world problems apparently leads to more favorable attitudes toward computers. Pilot response to the nine-stage model of problem solving was favorable.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Report series. The report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 1993 that represented the principal publication documenting and transmitting RAND's major research findings and final research.

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