Problem Solving and Cognitive Reflection

Life is a series of measurements.  It starts when the nurse weighs our tiny newborn bodies, and ends when the tailor checks our inseam length before crafting the suit for our final “going away party.”  In between, we navigate a series of intelligence tests and skill assessments designed to see how we measure up.

The Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT) created by Shane Frederick, a professor at Yale University’s School of Management was provided to hundreds of individuals. Frederick found that those scoring higher on this test have a tendency to be less impulsive, more persistent at problem solving, and have a greater long-term focus. 
By applying some simple principles, you can double check your own intuition and reduce the chances you’ll be hooked by your own thinking biases, which plague today’s fast-paced organizations.

1. Assume It’s Hard: When we encounter problems that look similar to those we’ve seen in the past, we have a tendency to assume they are simple. This can lead to misidentifying root causes and applying ineffective solutions. But, if we tell ourselves that not all situations are as simple as they seem, we can override our impulsive nature.

2. Consider Your Context: Our brains are designed to maximize efficiency. Unfortunately, that is not always effective when we encounter familiar problems in an unfamiliar context. Before you implement your intuitive solution, ask yourself, “Given the context surrounding this problem, how might this solution fail to produce the results we seek?”

3. Give It A Rest: In administering tests such as the CRT, researchers have found that fatigued people have a greater tendency to rely on unchecked intuition. If you face a high-stakes problem, make sure your initial assessment is conducted when your mind is fresh to minimize the risk of failure.

At Action Management Associates, we have over 35 years of experience helping our clients maximize their cognitive abilities and apply effective problem solving techniques.  If your organization is relying too much on unchecked intuition,  give us a call at 800-386-5611! We’d love to help.

Sign Up for Action Insights

Last Name
First Name


Creative Problem Solving | Problem Solving Training | Decision Making | Teaching Critical Thinking Skills | Critical Thinking