Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chair(s)

Carl Cheney


Carl Cheney


The two-string problem (Maier, 1931) was used in an analysis of the contribution of experience in problem solving. In the two string problem subjects are shown two strings hanging from the ceiling and are instructed to tie the strings together. The strings are placed apart so that subjects are unable to grasp both strings simultaneously. The solution involves the use of items which are available in the vicinity of the strings. For example, a hammer can be used as a weight to make one string swing. The research comprised three separate experiments. The objective was to investigate environmental contributions, as opposed to invoking concepts such as "insight", to account for problem solving behaviors. The first experiment was an attempt to systematically replicate Maier's experiment. Twenty five college students solved the problem within the allotted time. The second experiment sought to identify a population of subjects who would fail to solve the problem upon first exposure so as to allow for differential experience to be provided. Many Children, 5-9 years old, failed to solve the problem. The final experiment investigated the contribution of a variety of antecedent experiences to subsequent problem solutions by the younger subjects. Prior to the test, subjects in this experiment were exposed to one of three conditions; string games, a demonstration of objects used in non-traditional ways or control. It was determined that under the conditions of this experiment most subjects solved the problem. Of those who did not solve the problem, treatment conditions were effective in providing the subjects with problem solutions. The findings were interpreted and discussed in relation to Epstein's (1985) generativity theory.

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