Methods of Heuristics. Groner, Groner, Bischof (eds). Book 1983


<Pretty neat book actually, contains proceedings of multidisciplinary symposium on Methods of Heuristics.  Has a chapter by Minsky, for example.  No time to read the whole book.  George Polya, of Polya’s urn fame devoted a great deal of his work to heuristics, and is discussed here as well.  He was invited but health prevented him.  Piaget was also slated to talk, but died the day he was originally asked to speak – his longtime collaborator did come, though. De Groot is also here but I think I have it covered from previous reading.>

Chapter 6: Heuristics and Cognition in Complex Systems.  Dorner

  1. Well defined problems have the following features:
    1. Goal state is known
    2. Rules of the domain are known
  2. Often, following constraints are added
    1. State changes only through the planner
    2. Problem is not too big
    3. Is fully observable
  3. In complex systems
    1. The goal is vauge, perhaps multi-factor – goals that have multiple weighed aspects (this makes the problem into more of a reward problem than graph search)
    2. Results of all operators are unknown, or perhaps, not even all the operators are known
    3. Partial observability
  4. Move on to how to start attacking problem (such as where to start making unknown items known)
  5. When anchoring the problem by nailing down unknown items, a stopping rule may be needed, especially in cases with real-valued information.  The idea is to stop once a reasonable resolution level has been reached.  This should be the minimal amount needed to reach the goal
  6. In real life, people often attempt to achieve goals that are mutually exclusive, but are not aware of it
  7. In some cases, setting subgoals or simpler heuristic goals in place of the true goal can lead to poor behavior: “When a S [a participant] in the tailor shop game reasoned about a way to get more profit by selling his products, the S finally decided to strive for a higher sales rate.  First he tried to get a higher rate of sales by advertisement.  When this had not sufficient effect, the S decided to lower the prices.  This measure was effective; the S sold his whole production, without making any profit, as he sold products for less than his costs.”
  8. In some cases also, the interim goal gets all importance, and the individual forgets about the original goal entirely (this happens alot in science, where answering a preceding question becomes of significant interest, and can be a large distraction)
  9. People might also not choose goals at all.  Lindblom (1964) discussed a few symptoms of this sort of behavior:
    1. Thematic vagabonding: they continually change their course of action and therefore never make significant progress
    2. Encapsulation: over-commitment to some approach
    3. Both are escape tendencies where working on the actual problem is avoided: “They do not solve the problems the should solve (but can’t), but rather those they can (but shouldn’t).  Often the replacement of a final goal by an interim goal may be a kind of encapsulation.”
  10. Another potential problem is that individuals only collect or pay attention to data that fits in with their preconcieved (and potentially incorrect) conception of the problem.  This is called the use of a dogmatically entrenched system.  “That means that the individual never again gets negative feedback; his system of assumptions becomes dogmatic.”
  11. These “cognitive degenerations” can be due to a feeling of incompetence.  Seeking out information requires both that one doesn’t have enough information, but also that one is capable of obtaining information and using it.  Dogmatism is the wrong way of securing a feeling of competence.
  12. <…>
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