Giving up problem solving

Stephen J Payne, Geoffrey B Duggan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (SciVal)
137 Downloads (Pure)


How do people decide to abandon a problem? Participants were presented with unsolvable water jar problems, having been accurately informed of the prior probability of solvability. Across three experiments, we discovered effects of prior probability of solvability and of problem size (number of distinct problem states) on measures of effort and confidence. If a problem is more likely to be solvable and allows more problem states, a problem solver spends longer trying to solve the problem. Giving-up decisions are informed by the same judgments of probability of success and costs of solution that inform move-choice in a rational model of problem solving.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)902-913
Number of pages12
JournalMemory & Cognition
Issue number5
Early online date11 Jan 2011
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2011


  • information foraging
  • abandonment
  • problem solving
  • stopping rules


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