The Role of Problem Definitions in Understanding Age and Context Effects on Strategies for Solving Everyday Problems

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The participants (107 preadolescents,124 college students,118 middle-aged adults, and 131 older adults) described 2 everyday problems (1 unconstrained, the other constrained to 1 of 6 domains) that they experienced and their goals and strategies. Problem definitions reflected interpersonal or competence components or both; strategies reflected altering cognitions, actions, or regulating and including others. Age differences in problem definitions were found. For unconstrained-domain problems, age and problem definition were related to strategies; for unconstrained-domain problems age differences in strategies were not found. For constrained-domain problems, strategies related to problem domain and problem definition, with problem definition the better predictor of strategies. The results illustrate the value of individuals' problem definitions for addressing age and context effects on strategies used.

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