An Intergrative Model of Everyday Problem Solving Across the Adult Life Span

Authored by: Cynthia A. Berg , Michelle Skinner , Kelly Ko

Handbook of Research on Adult Learning and Development

Print publication date:  November  2008
Online publication date:  November  2008

Print ISBN: 9780805858198
eBook ISBN: 9780203887882
Adobe ISBN: 9781135597405


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In daily life, adults experience a variety of different types of everyday problems. The following examples encompass the wide range of everyday problems mentioned by our research participants who were asked to describe a recent everyday problem they experienced: dealing with a malfunctioning computer at work, deciding on the best medical insurance program for changing family needs, scheduling multiple time demands dealing with work, family, and leisure activities, making a treatment decision for a recent diagnosis of prostate cancer, and dealing with late family members who chronically derail leisure plans. These types of problems have been studied under a variety of labels including everyday competence (Baltes, Mayr, Borchelt, Maas, & Wilms, 1993; Willis 1991), everyday problem solving (Berg, Strough, Calderone, Sansone, & Weir, 1998; Blanchard-Fields, Jahnke, & Camp, 1995; Denney, 1989; Diehl, Willis, & Schaie,1995; Marsiske & Willis, 1995; Sinnott, 1989), everyday cognition (Allaire & Marsiske, 2002; Poon, Rubin, & Wilson, 1989; Rogoff & Lave, 1984), everyday reasoning and decision making (Johnson, 1990; Klaczynski, 2000), and practical intelligence (Sternberg & Wagner, 1986). We use the term “everyday problem solving,” because it is the term most commonly applied in the cognitive aging literature. We use the term despite the great diversity in the content, structure, and processes involved in these everyday problems.

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