Journal of Behavioral Education

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 275–300 | Cite as

Problem Solving from a Behavioral Perspective: Implications for Behavior Analysts and Educators

  • Andrew R. Kieta
  • Traci M. CihonEmail author
  • Awab Abdel-Jalil
Original Paper


The nature of problem solving has been a difficult one to pin down, with much of the focus placed on hypothetical cognitive structures based on technological metaphors that change as quickly as the currently popular technologies after which they are modeled. While behavior analysts have made use of several effective instructional methodologies to produce reliable and impressive convergent learning outcomes, mainstream education has increasingly shifted toward divergent learning outcomes. Educators desire instructional models that are free flowing, spontaneous, and creative, producing students capable of solving problems in a wide array of domains. The analysis provided by a science of human behavior, combined with the aforementioned effective instructional strategies, reveals problem solving to be an area ripe for behavior analytic dissemination and interdisciplinary coordination. Behavior analysis offers a distinctly selectionist account of problem solving that focuses on the interaction between the learner and the environment. This paper serves three functions. First, the authors present a detailed and comprehensive account of human problem solving from a behavior analytic perspective, with a special focus on the role of verbal behavior. Second, research that supports this conceptualization is thoroughly detailed. Lastly, the authors describe effective problem solving curricula and instructional methods derived from a behavior analytic framework to assist educators as to how to create optimal learning environments to promote and nurture cultures of successful problem solving.


Behavior analysis Creativity Problem solving Verbal behavior 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Morningside AcademySeattleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Behavior AnalysisThe University of North TexasDentonUSA

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