Ageing cognition

This ESRC-funded study examined relationships between physical health, current everyday problem solving, IQ and quality of life.

An interesting result was that people’s quality of life was more related to everyday problem-solving skill (or “wisdom”) than to IQ as measured by abstract tasks.

How insight problems are solved

How do people tackle “insight” problems that require a change in the way that it is understood? For example, understanding how someone could walk over a lake requires that the lake be represented as not in its normal state (maybe it is a severe winter at the time?).

It seems that deliberate searching for alternative ways of understanding key words is involved. This suggests that insight problem solving can be understood as a non-mysterious process.

Creative thinking

We are seeking to understand how people carry out a creative thinking task (eg, “think of as many different uses as you can for a brick”). People were asked to think out loud while doing this task.

We found that after producing uses from memory people switch to scanning the objects’ properties to suggest uses or scan broad possible uses that could be applied (eg, Use as furniture? As food? As transport?).