Ruprecht-Karls-Universität HeidelbergPsychologisches Institut
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Forschung > Research on Complex Problem Solving (Komplexes Problemlösen)

Research on Complex Problem Solving (Komplexes Problemlösen)

Since about 1975, problem solving research in Germany has shifted its attention from simple to complex problems due to ideas developed by Dietrich Dörner (now at Bamberg University). Complex problems are presented to human subjects as computersimulated scenarios which they have to explore and control. Complex problem are called "complex" due to their system attributes like complexity, connectivity, intransparency, dynamics, and polytely.

During the discussion about research strategies for analyzing Complex Problem Solving, two different schools or traditions emerged. Following Buchner (1995), the first tradition (Bamberg School; Dietrich Dörner, Harald Schaub, Stefan Strohschneider) is interested in differential effects of variables like intelligence or self-esteem. The second tradition (Heidelberg school; Carola Barth, Christine Blech, Sven Brüssow, Joachim Funke, Samuel Greiff, Daniel Holt) makes a focus on system attributes, asking for the effects of degree of time delay, number of side effects, and so on. The last mentioned approach has a offered a list of research principles.

Our current research is twofold: on the one side we are interested in the development of better measurement devices, on the other side we want to understand the regulation and self-regulation processes during problem solving: the impact of emotion on cognition, for example, how affective states influence planning processes and problem solving strategies, or how metacognition can be improved to come to better problem solving results.

We have developed the concept of minimal complex systems, for systems based on linear structural equations (the MicroDYN approach; Greiff, Wüstenberg & Funke) as well as for systems based on finite state automata (the MicroFIN approach; Funke, Wüstenberg & Greiff - with equal contributions). This conceptual frame is not favoring a singular microworld, but looking for a large class of scalable problems with high psychometric qualities. As Chairman of the "International Expert Group on Problem Solving" for the PISA studies (run by OECD, Paris) I could - together with my experts - shift the attention within PISA 2012 from static to dynamic interactive problem solving.

With the computersimulated microworld "Tailorshop", we have implemented a new Flash version which can easily be translated into different langiuages. In cooperation with the Interdisciplinary Center for Scientific Computing,, we developed new scoring procedures for the classic nonlinear optimization task which make the old scenario "Tailorshop" to a highly relevant and psychometric interesting tool for complex problem research.

Also, our developments around tasks like Plan-a-Day or "RushHour" contribute to basic research in the area of thinking and problem solving.

More information about Complex Problem Solving

Current Research at Heidelberg

Problem-Solving Competencies: Together with Andreas Fischer, Samuel Greiff, Julia Hilse and Sascha Wüstenberg research on test development (MicroDYN and MicroFIN approach; see Greiff, Wüstenberg & Funke, 2012)

BMBF Complex Problem solving: Together with Daniel Holt research on the development of a test for planning (Plan-A-Day)

Together with Carola Barth, research on the interaction of cognition and emotion (see Barth & Funke, 2010)

Together with Christine Blech, research on polytelic situations (i.e., situations with many goals, some of them may be conflicting, see Blech & Funke, 2010)

Marsilius project "The Global Governance of Climate Engineering": Together with Dorothee Amelung, interdisciplinary research on climate engineering (see Amelung & Funke, 2013)

BMBF ClimAge: Together with Helen Fischer and Christina Degen, research on the understanding of dynamic systems (see Fischer, Degen & Funke, in press)

Software Tools and Scenarios

All our own tools are free of charge for research purposes. We have no capacity to adjust our software to specific purposes from outside.

  • MicroDYN and MicroFIN: We are currently preparing packages for different target groups. Just in case, ask Dr. Samuel Greiff who is now at Luxembourg University (he states in his articles: „for any research and educational purposes, a free version of MicroDYN is available.“).
  • TAILORSHOP: Managing a small company, see developed by our friends Holger Diedam, Michael Engelhart & Sebastian Sager; there is also a Flash version available from Daniel Holt (try here).
  • COMMERCE: a microworld developed by Tilmann Betsch, Andreas Glöckner, and Susanne Haberstroh for analyzing routine decision making
  • Bamberger Forschungsszenarios: A list of microworlds (and other software) developed by the Bamberg Group of Dietrich Dörner (no longer available, 7/2009)
  • FSYS: a computerbased assessment for complex problem solving developed by Dietrich Wagener, Universität Mannheim (in German)
  • Networked Fire Chief: A simulation used by the Australian researchers Mary Omodei and Alex Wearing
  • PeaceMaker: Play a leading role in the Mideast peace process (used at the DDM lab at the CMU as well as in my group at Heidelberg
  • References

  • Dörner & Funke (2017), about complex problem solving
  • Funke & Greiff (2017), about MicroDYN development
  • Funke (2003), Problemlösendes Denken (in German)
  • Reader edited by Frensch & Funke (1995), Complex Problem Solving
  • Review article by Funke & Frensch (1995), Complex problem solving research in North America and Europe: An integrative review
  • Reader edited by Funke & Fritz (1995), Neue Konzepte und Instrumente zur Planungsdiagnostik (in German; New concepts and instruments for the diagnosis of planning behavior)
  • Funke (1992), Wissen über dynamische Systeme (in German)
  • Funke (1986), Komplexes Problemlösen (in German)
  • Funke (1986), Überblick über computersimulierte Szenarien aus Untersuchungen zum "Komplexen Problemlösen" (in German)
  • Links

  • MicroDYN and MicroFIN approach (using Linear Structural Equations and Finite State Automata)
  • Plan-a-Day (Daily Errands planning)
  • Acquisition and Use of Knowledge in the Control of a Dynamic System (Wolfgang Schoppek, Bayreuth University)
  • ACTOR - Umweltlernen für jeden Typ (Ernst-Dieter Lantermann, Uni Kassel, in German)
  • Dynamic Decision Making Laboratory (Coty Gonzalez, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA)
  • Home of Jerome Busemeyer and his Decision Field Theory
  • Home of Bergen Decision Lab under the head of Gisela Böhm
  • Shared Data-Sets from Jose Quesada
  • Journals

  • Journal of Dynamic Decision Making (Open Access)
  • Journal of Problem Solving (Open Access)
  • Judgment and Decision Making (Open Access)
  • Thinking and Reasoning (Taylor & Francis)
  • Commercial Applications (outside of universities)

  • Modeling tool HERAKLIT (in German):
  • Cybernetic Website of Frederic Vester (in German):
  • Systems Thinking Software (Stella, iThink):
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    BMFT project Complex problem solving
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    Forschungsthema: Neuropsychologie
    Research on Complex Problem Solving (Komplexes Problemlösen)
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