How do different people solve problems?

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Keith Jackson

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How do different people solve problems?
« on: 04/04/2011 19:30:03 »
Keith Jackson  asked the Naked Scientists:
Hi All,

I love the programme. I think you have a superb way of explaining complex concepts in an accessible form. Long may you continue.

While I was working as a post-Doc at the University of Nottingham under Prof Sam Kingman (someone I'd strongly recommend you contact to appear on the show) about 10 years ago I was on a project researching the use of microwaves to improve the extraction of ores from their host rocks.

On this day, some of our colleagues were at another university, using their kit to measure the energy absorbed as treated and untreated samples were crushed under controlled conditions. Untreated specimens tended to produce a sharp, spiked energy/time graph but some of the treated specimens produced a quite different form - one that had a lower maximum energy level that lasted for a longer time, having a sort of decaying ripple shape.

They emailed us as they were puzzled but it was obvious to me. I could see the difference in my mind as being similar to there being a single crystal of sugar the size of a sugar lump for the untreated and a normal sugar lump for the treated.

One had to have cracks generated from scratch while the other simply needed existing cracks, induced by the microwaves, to be re-mobilised.

When I chatted to another colleague, who was a whiz at maths, and said that I saw the problem almost as a movie in my head he looked at me like I was completely daft and said that he would have seen the difference in terms of the mathematical equations to generate both shapes of curve. Neither of us could conceive how the other could think that way.

That difference in perception has puzzled me ever since. Has any work ever been done on how different people perceive and solve problems?


What do you think?
« Last Edit: 04/04/2011 19:30:03 by _system »