, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 554-566

Intuition versus analysis: Strategy and experience in complex everyday problem solving


Research on dual processes in cognition has shown that explicit, analytical thought is more powerful and less vulnerable to heuristics and biases than is implicit, intuitive thought. However, several studies have shown that holistic, intuitive processes can outperform analysis, documenting the disruptive effects of hypothesis testing, think-aloud protocols, and analytical judgments. To examine the effects of intuitive versus analytical strategy and level of experience on problem solving, 1st- through 4th-year undergraduates solved problems dealing with college life. The results of two studies showed that the appropriateness of strategy depends on the problem solver’s level of experience. Analysis was found to be an appropriate strategy for more experienced individuals, whereas novices scored best when they took a holistic, intuitive perspective. Similar effects of strategy were found when strategy instruction was manipulated and when participants were compared on the basis of strategy preference. The implications for research on problem solving, expertise, and dual-process models are discussed.

Study 1 was part of a doctoral dissertation submitted to Yale University. Support for this project was provided by a Yale University Dissertation Fellowship, an APA COGDOP award, and an APA dissertation award.