Deutsch: Problemlösung / Español: Resolución de problemas / Português: Resolução de problemas / Français: Résolution de problèmes / Italian: Risoluzione dei problemi

Problem solving is an effort to overcome obstacles obstructing the path to a solution. Problem solving are the cognitive process or processes which is used in transforming starting information into a goal state, using specified means of solution. Problem solving, moreover, is the process in which someone has a specific goal in mind that cannot be attained immediately because of the presence of one or more obstacles. It involves a goal, obstacles to that goal, strategies for overcoming the obstacles, and an evaluation of the results.

In psychology, problem solving refers to the cognitive process of finding a solution to a problem or obstacle. This process typically involves several steps, such as identifying the problem, generating potential solutions, evaluating those solutions, and implementing the chosen solution.


Problem-solving encompasses a sequence of steps that individuals or groups take to identify the root of a problem, generate potential solutions, choose the most effective option, and then implement that solution. The process typically involves both analytical and creative thinking skills to navigate the often complex nature of real-world issues.

Application Areas

Problem-solving is a critical skill across many domains of psychology:

  • Clinical Psychology: Therapeutic strategies often involve teaching clients problem-solving skills to cope with personal and mental health challenges.
  • Educational Psychology: Educators use problem-solving techniques to improve teaching methods and curricula, enabling better student engagement and learning outcomes.
  • Industrial-Organizational Psychology: In workplace settings, problem-solving is essential for improving team performance, enhancing decision-making processes, and innovating solutions to business hurdles.

Well-Known Examples

Famous models of problem-solving in psychology include:

  • George Polya’s Four-Step Problem-Solving Process: This involves understanding the problem, devising a plan, carrying out the plan, and looking back to review the results.
  • Problem-Solving Therapy (PST): A cognitive-behavioral intervention that helps individuals manage their emotional responses to problems and develop practical coping strategies.
  • An example of problem solving in psychology is a child learning to tie their shoelaces. The child first identifies the problem (not being able to tie their shoelaces) and then generates potential solutions (such as using a shoe with Velcro or asking for help). They then evaluate these solutions (realizing that Velcro shoes are not a long-term solution and that asking for help is not always possible) and implement the chosen solution (learning how to tie their shoelaces).

  • Another example is a person trying to figure out how to budget their money. They identify the problem (not being able to save money), generate potential solutions (such as cutting back on expenses or earning more income), evaluate these solutions (deciding which ones are practical and feasible), and implement the chosen solution (creating a budget and sticking to it).

Treatment and Risks

Effective problem-solving can lead to significant improvements in a person’s quality of life by providing tools to cope with everyday challenges and stressors. However, poor problem-solving skills can contribute to psychological issues such as anxiety and depression, especially when individuals feel overwhelmed by their problems.

Similar Terms

Related terms include 'decision-making', which involves choosing between different courses of action, and 'critical thinking', which is the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.

"Problem solving" is a noun phrase that refers to the act or process of finding solutions to problems. For example:

  • Effective problem solving requires critical thinking and creativity.

"Problem-solving" is an adjective phrase that describes something related to the act of solving problems. For example:

  • She is known for her problem-solving skills.

In compound modifiers (adjectives formed by combining two or more words), a hyphen is often used to clarify the relationship between the words and avoid ambiguity. Therefore, "problem-solving" is commonly used when it functions as an adjective modifying a noun.


Problem solving in psychology is a fundamental cognitive process that involves identifying problems and devising and implementing solutions. It is a crucial skill in therapeutic contexts, educational settings, and the workplace, helping individuals and organizations adapt and thrive in their environments.

Problem solving is an important aspect of cognitive development and is critical for adapting to new situations, making decisions, and achieving goals.


Related Articles

Novelist at■■■■■■■
In the context of psychology, the term "novelist" typically does not refer to the profession of writing . . . Read More
Self-Empowerment at■■■■■■■
In the psychology context, Self-Empowerment refers to the process through which individuals gain the . . . Read More
Abstract Reasoning at■■■■■■■
In the psychology context, abstract reasoning refers to the cognitive process involved in understanding . . . Read More
Resolution at■■■■■■
Deutsch: Auflösung / Español: Resolución / Português: Resolução / Français: Résolution / Italian: . . . Read More
Visualisation at■■■■■■
Visualisation in the psychology context refers to the cognitive process of mentally creating or recreating . . . Read More
Decision making at■■■■■■
Decision making refers to the process(es) by which an individual selects one course of action from among . . . Read More
Supposition at■■■■■■
Supposition in the context of psychology refers to a cognitive process where an individual assumes or . . . Read More
Next In Line Effect at■■■■■■
Next In Line Effect refers to a cognitive phenomenon observed in social psychology where individuals . . . Read More
Representation at■■■■■■
Representation in the psychology context refers to the mental encoding, storage, and recall of information. . . . Read More
Inhalation at■■■■■■
In the psychology context, inhalation metaphorically refers to the act of absorbing or taking in new . . . Read More