The solution to any problem is based on many factors that impact the process of solving the problem. This process is influenced by such cognitive processes as memory, perception, and attention. Previous experience and knowledge play an essential role, and there are several strategies for solving problems, which depend on the complexity of the problem. The easiest way to solve a relatively simple problem is a trial-and-error strategy, which involves testing each solution before getting one that works. However, this method is applicable mainly for easy problems with a small number of possible solutions because solving complex problems with its help will be time-consuming and tedious.
The analogical transfer strategy involves using one solution for different problems with one basic structure. Another strategy is an algorithm, exploring the whole space of the problem in search of any possible solution. However, as in the case of the trial-and-error strategy, this method is relevant in cases where the problem space is relatively small. Heuristic searches involve exploring only one part of the search space, but they do not always lead to the correct solution. Repeated comparisons between the current and the goal state determine the means-ends strategy.
A hill-climbing strategy involves repeating steps towards achieving a goal. There is another strategy for solving problems called the working-backward strategy. This strategy implies starting by considering the goal state and working out the path to the beginning state. Some problems are solved using insight: the sudden realization of the solution to the problem. McBride and Cutting describe insight as “a kind of “aha” experience” that is not so much a consequence of trying to achieve a solution as a surprising awareness. Furthermore, people tend to break down complex problems into subproblems, gradually approaching the final solution. Consequently, it can be concluded that there are many ways to solve the same problem, and each strategy is effective under the right circumstances.
Getting different solutions for people working on the same problem also depends on various factors. In addition to the chosen strategy, the resulting solution is influenced by experience in solving similar problems. People who already have experience deal with the problem faster and more efficiently. Experienced people pay attention to the important details of the problem and better understand the problem’s underlying structure. They use proven strategies and transfer their past experience of problem-solving to new ones. In addition, the same solution is not always desirable and preferable for different people, as well as using various strategies sometimes leads to diverse solutions.