Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Jennifer A. Margrett

Committee Co-Chair

JoNell Strough


Prior literature has relied on varied methodology to infer conclusions about adult problem solvers; possibly leading to erroneous assumptions about everyday problem-solving performance in adulthood. The present study examined everyday problem-solving performance of 133 younger, middle-aged, and older adults. The goal of the study was to investigate whether different scoring procedures (number vs. strategy type) or participant instructions (self target vs. others target) affected how adults performed on two types of open-ended problem-solving vignettes (home vs. friend problem domains). Differential age patterns were found when comparing the number and types of strategies reported. When assessing total number of solutions generated, middle-aged adults tended to record the most solutions, particularly when completing home problems or after given the others-target instructions. In terms of strategy type, older adults reported a higher proportion of proactive responses (problem-focused and cognitive-analytical strategies) than younger adults on friend problems. Cluster analysis revealed three types of problem solvers (i.e., most proactive; commentary; least proactive) based on reported strategies. Individuals comprising the least proactive group performed better on an inductive reasoning task and generated more overall solutions than individuals in the most proactive group. Findings from the study should compel researchers to be cautious when focusing on a particular scoring method as an index for effective problem solving, as the findings can differ based on scoring.