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Experimental and Theoretical Psychology

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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 related to development of better measurement devices and to the impact of emotion on cognition, for example, how affective states influence planning processes and problem solving strategies.

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 W├╝stenberg 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.

  • DYNAMIS: Software for constructing linear structural equation systems
  • MacFAUST: Software for constructing finite state automata
  • 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

  • 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
  • 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

  • DYNAMIS approach (via structural equation models)
  • Plan-a-Day (Daily Errands planning)
  • List of Problem Solving People (managed by Purdue University)
  • 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)
  • Complex Decision Research Group (Mary Omodei & Alex Wearing, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia)
  • 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, MPI Berlin
  • Journals

  • 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):
  • corner-topleft picture corner-topright picture
     BMFT project Complex problem solving
     Complex Problem Solving: Research Principles
     Complex Problem Solving
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    Last modified on 23.07.2013 by JF.