Date of Graduation
Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
Individual difference characteristics (i.e., age, gender, self-efficacy beliefs, exposure to problems) and contextual characteristics (i.e., problem domain) of the everyday problem-solving process were considered in an examination of individuals' strategy effectiveness. Although prior research has examined problem-solving strategy effectiveness according to independent judges or experts (Allaire & Marsiske, 2002; Blanchard-Fields, Mienaltowski, & Baldi, 2007; Cornelius & Caspi, 1987; Galambos, MacDonald, Naphtali, Cohen, & de Frias, 2005; Marsiske & Willis, 1995), methodological weaknesses in determining the effectiveness of the strategies may have invalidated the findings. A group of seven highly reliable expert raters were recruited to provide effectiveness ratings of strategies generated and chosen as most effective by younger (N = 74) and older (N = 74) adults in Strough's (2004) study on collaboration and everyday problem solving. Repeated-measures ANOVA on adults' strategy effectiveness scores revealed significant two-way interactions between gender and problem domain and age and problem domain. Men and women had higher effectiveness scores on the finance problem than on the gossip problem, but the difference was more pronounced for men than for women. Younger adult men performed worse than older adult men, younger adult women, and older adult women on the gossip problem. These findings were consistent with previous literature on age and domain difference in problem-solving effectiveness, specifically that older adults outperform younger adults and individuals are more effective for solving instrumental domain problems than interpersonal domain problems (Blanchard-Fields et al., 2007). Mediation models were assessed via path analysis to explain the age effect found in the present study. Exposure to gossip problems was a significant mediator of the age differences in strategy effectiveness. Greater exposure to gossip problems was associated with lower strategy effectiveness scores. Younger adults, who reported greater exposure, used strategies that were less likely to solve the problem or prevent/minimize future occurrences of the problem, which reduced the strategy effectiveness scores. Previous research has shown that younger adults report greater general familiarity with everyday problems than do older adults (Blanchard-Fields, Chen, & Norris, 1997). The present study suggested that younger adults may report this greater experience because they also reported more present exposure to problematic situations and used less effective strategies. Limitations of the present study include the cross-sectional nature of the design, the limited number of problems examined, and limits on ecological validity when using hypothetical problem vignettes to measure everyday problem solving.
McFall, Joseph P., "Examining the effectiveness of older and younger adults' strategies for solving interpersonal and individual everyday problems" (2007). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 4319.