Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Adam Sheya, Sumarga Suanda, James Dixon

Field of Study

Psychological Sciences


Master of Science

Open Access

Open Access


How do humans develop the ability to approach and solve diverse, attentionally-demanding problems? Current work on problem-solving focuses on well-defined problems in which explicit task constraints directly inform the planning and execution of behaviors. However, in situations that might be more informative for naturalistic learning and problem-solving, what is necessary to solve problems when task constraints, and thus planning abilities, are not as easily accessible? Executive functions such as selective attention and working memory seem fundamental to these types of activities, yet there is not a clear account of how exactly the coordination of these cognitive processes contribute dynamically to this capability over the course of development. This study aimed to enhance the current characterization of problem-solving by further uncovering relationships among processes of executive functioning to better understand how this competence might emerge and self-organize throughout development. To first examine this phenomenon in adults, a sample of 86 people between the ages of 18-27 years participated in this phase of the study. The experiment consisted of a code-breaking problem-solving task and two working memory tasks; the Simon color sequence game, and the Dual N-Back. In the problem-solving task, participants attempted to solve a correct code using incremental feedback. Overall, results suggested that the ability to adequately coordinate information, and thus overall performance, decreases when working memory demands are imposed.

Major Advisor

Adam Sheya