Neuropsychology, and Cognition Goals and Everyday Problem Solving: Examining the Link between Age-Related Goals and Problem-Solving Strategy Use Goals and Problem Solving – Critical Article Review

Everyday problem solving has recently sparked interest amongst experts in neuropsychology with respect to how it affects different spheres of an individual’s life. Age-related differences have been extensively explored by researchers, a strategy that has often been employed to tackle a plethora of problem domains. The general consensus held by members in this field is that the problem context is a primary motivator with regard to strategy choice (Attix & Welsh-Bohmer, 2016, p. 89). Nevertheless, there are those who opine differently and seek to offer an alternative contextual perspective that introduces a nascent paradigm shift. Researchers Abby H. Coats, Christiane A. Hoppmann and Fredda Blanchard-Fields from the Georgia Institute of Technology are such individuals who suggest the adoption of a novel approach. In their widely acclaimed journal article dubbed  “Neuropsychology, and Cognition Goals and Everyday Problem Solving: Examining the Link between Age-Related Goals and Problem-Solving Strategy Use Goals and Problem Solving”, the team considers how persons appraise problem situations with direct relation to goals adopted. The purpose of this article review is, thus, to evaluate the study’s major findings, their implications, the methodology used together with its strengths and limitations.

Major Findings and Conclusions drawn from the Data

To explain the direct impact goals had in relation to problem appraisal, the researchers initially considered data obtained from qualitative interviews conducted on families to investigate their financial problems. Major findings obtained suggest that goals that would be considered developmentally relevant went on to determine the type of problem-solving strategy that was ultimately implemented. These findings were presented against a backdrop of four crucial goals; a person’s autonomy, their ability to maintain healthy relationships with others, generativity, and ability to change another individual (Hoppmann, Heckman Coats, & Blanchard-Fields, 2008). Also included in the findings was a clear match between the individual’s goals and strategies that were subsequently employed. This, therefore, points to an advanced level of problem-solving adaptability where younger individuals are better at matching their autonomy goals with those of the self-focused debacle. Older adults exhibited a higher propensity for making accurate matches between their generative goals and other strategies that would come in handy when solving a problem.  It is from these findings that the researchers deduced the vitality of incorporating goals as a parameter when seeking to probe any age-related differences that may exist during the problem-solving phase.

The study also concluded that goals (considered developmentally relevant) were an important ingredient in as far as deducing qualitative differences that existed throughout an adult’s lifespan was concerned. Also included in the findings is the notion that every single individual is directly responsible for shaping their own development. This is done by setting concrete goals which are then investigated by comparing them with the subject’s behavior. Moreover, the emotional state and feelings held by individuals also served as important tools when determining the age-related disparities that may exist in cognitive function. The study explained this through the use of a motivational mechanism that was relevant in assessing any age-related changes that may exist in cognitive functioning.

Implications of these Findings in the Field of Psychology

An apparent implication that findings from this study will have on the entire field of Psychology are changes that would have to be implemented in light of the insight that has so far exposed problem-solving adaptiveness when dealing with different age groups. The general criterion had often considered matches made between the subject’s autonomy goals and their successive self-focused goals (Hoppmann, Heckman Coats, & Blanchard-Fields, 2008). Experts would now have to contend with the fact that an individual’s goals play an equally important role when describing their qualitative differences and the problem-solving strategies that they would adopt across their lifetime. This rings true, particularly because individuals being investigated for having a wide range of financial problems spanned different age-groups.  Professionals exposed to this data will soon acknowledge that a clear distinction exists between an individual’s goals and others that had hitherto remained unexplored. In this respect, they would have to come to terms with the expression of developmental themes through goals and, in the process, get a unique opportunity to observe this interplay at work. They would now reconcile the veracity of younger adults having more autonomy goals while their older counterparts having more generative goals to aid in maneuvering an increasingly complex environment. Additionally, professionals specializing in Psychology will now have a better understanding of young adults seeking to achieve their autonomy goals through self-reliance and skill development.  On the other hand, these same findings would help explain the problem–solving strategies that are typically adopted by older individuals while putting other’s needs into account  (Dixon, 2007). It is also worth noting that these findings introduce new arguments that are parallel to those established in the past that had made a clear distinction between problem-solving strategies and age-related differences. What is even more important is the congruence established by the results when exploring social contacts. It succinctly depicts the dependence that older adults have on close family members, which is an important point to note for anyone who would be their primary caregivers towards their so-called “sunset years”.

Methodology and Participants Taking Part in the Study

Researchers utilized interviews in their quest to construe problems faced by participants, their life goals and the strategies that they had developed to enable them to achieve these goals. The interview was specifically tailored for the subjects; encompassing an assessment of emotions, strategies to regulate them, fundamental attributions and any other challenges that they may face. In total 253 participants took part in the study (84 adolescents, 76 young adults, and 93 older adults) from an assorted racial background. Recruitment for adolescent participants took place in the Atlanta metropolitan inner schools, young adults from Southeastern University and older individuals from community organizations. It is commendable that the researchers provide consent forms to all participants, making certain that they were well aware of what the study entailed (Nevid, 2013, p. 67). By so doing, participants were able to divulge sensitive information while being at ease since confidentiality was already assured. The social problems domain that was selected for the purpose of this study were family issues since they carried more weight in the participant’s lives. A cognitive abilities exam and a demographic information sheet were to be completed after the interview to supplement any information that had been recorded.

Strengths and Limitations of the Study

The study focused primarily on participant’s qualitative interviews which served its objectives since it provided a wealth of information that could be cross-examined when trying to understand problem-solving strategies in everyday life.  The validity of data obtained from such participants is unquestionable since they constantly deal with real life problems. The researchers, therefore, had an easy time proving their aforementioned hypothesis even if challenges presented themselves along the way. On the flipside, a limitation exists in the form of problems varying from one age group to the next. It was only possible to examine two problem domains which meant that there the results were somewhat inconclusive. In such a scenario, the researchers will be left with no other option than to generalize their findings to fit into the other problem domains. Consequently, an investigation of a single motivational mechanism is also limiting and the reason why future research needs to focus more on substantiating their findings after a thorough inquiry.

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