Cultural Blocks to Problem Solving

Cultural blocks to problem solving

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Cultural Blocks

Cultural blocks refers to the ‘mental blocks’ that are created in the mind due to conditioning to accept certain behaviour as normal in a given situation, even though we might find a much better solution to a problem if we look beyond what is normal.

Some specific cultural inhibitions, according to Adams (1979) and Simbeng (1964) are:
1.    Playfulness is for children only, and serious problem solving requires a serious attitude
2.    Humor has no place in problem solving
3.    The value judgment that inquisitiveness and scepticism are undesirable qualities
4.    Overemphasis on cooperation or on competition
5.    Too much faith in statistics: people don’t look beyond the statistic
6.    Too much faith in reason and logic.
7.    Indulging in fantasy and reflection is worthless and lazy.

What causes cultural blocks?

To summarize in two words:  conformity pressures.  It is uncomfortable to be different, to challenge accepted ways of thinking and behaving.  We learn that it's good to be correct, logical and practical; to follow rules and avoid mistakes; and that "play is for kids."

Cultural blocks or inhibitions can fall under several different kinds of conformity or social influences (Rokeach, 1981).
1.    An individual who is a member of a group may be influenced by group situations.
2.    A member of a group may be influenced by another member with prestige.
3.    One member may influence the judgment of another member (in this case there is not a prestige effect).

How to overcome cultural blocks?

The following methods can be used to help overcome various cultural blocks:
1.    critically question existing ideas and look for areas for improvement
2.    identify constraints and question their validity
3.    if you dislike change, do some 'wishful thinking’ to see what benefits change would bring; ask yourself what would be the consequences of taking a new approach.
4.    if you think fantasy and humour have no place in problem solving, practice using your day dreams to develop your ideas; next time someone cracks a joke about a situation, think about what new perspectives it creates
5.    if you think intuition is unreliable, think back over recent problems you have solved; did that first 'hunch' turn out to be dose to your final solution?
6.    if you are in a very competitive environment, be careful how you explain your ideas to people competing with you; emphasise the likely benefits to them
7.    if there is a strong climate of cooperation, ask members of your group for their ideas and comments; share the problem with them.

* * *

Cultural blocks are mental barriers to problem solving. Effective problem solving requires overcoming these blocks. These are majorly driven by the tendency of a person to conform to set customs and not question the status quo. In fact, a person may not even be aware that he/she has a cultural block until an expert advises them. The blocks can be overcome by questioning and consciously countering the specific dimension where you observe a mental barrier.


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Q7 - MAPC MPC001 Cognitive Psychology, Learning and Memory - MPC-001/ASST/TMA/2014-15
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