Poonam Sukul


The general exploratory behaviour of the organism accompanies the presence of needs in the organism. In the evolution of the response mechanism and in the adjustment of the organism to its environment, the general activity becomes the first step in ensuring that the organism has an opportunity to obtain the satisfaction of its needs. Although in a new and unfamiliar situation, general exploration is the only available means for finding the satisfaction of a need, when the need arises again and again in the same situation, learning has an opportunity to take place. Activity then becomes less random and more stereotyped and specific learned patterns of behaviour emerge. Such learning behaviour is called problem-solving.


Since many years, experimental study of human problem-solving behaviour has continued in a sporadic manner. Psychologists have tried to investigate the conditions that influence the problem solving behaviour of the individuals. They have tried to analyse whether an individual can solve problems in a better way working in a group or when she / he is alone. Evidences suggest that group problem solving is generally superior to individual situation. It has been argued that it occurs because the presence of one able person in the group ensures that all the individuals will be able to perform the task. The proponents of problem solving as a brain storming or idea eliciting behaviour also emphasize the value of group participation.


1. To study the effect of individual condition in problem solving;

2. To study the effect of group participation in problem solving;

3. To study the effect of mixed conditions i.e. working in both individual and group conditions in solving problems.



1. The number of solutions would not be greater when working individually than when working in a group;

2. The individual condition of problem solving would not be superior to the mixed conditions of working.




40 male students of higher secondary classes studying in different schools in Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh) who had secured 60 to 65% marks in their secondary school examinations were selected on the basis of random sampling.



Five problems of general interest and creative thinking each having numerous answers were selected for the purpose of study.


Experimental Design and Procedure

Four experimental conditions each composed of 10 same sex subjects were utilised. The conditions were as follows:

I - Working individually;

G - Working in a group;

IG - Working first half of the time individually and then working in a group; and

G I - Working first half of the session in a group and then working individually.


In individual condition, all the 10 subjects were told that they had to respond for a test on creative thinking. They were asked to read all the problems carefully and to write down all the ideas or solutions, they could think of. Quantity and not the quality of the solutions were stressed. The time limit of 20 minutes was provided for solving the problems. In group condition, the subjects were instructed in the same manner as in individual condition. The time limit was also same. All students sat around a large table working in a group.


In condition I-G, the subjects were given the same instructions as in condition I except that they were given only 10 minutes to solve problems privately. Then they were asked to assemble and work in a group. They were asked not to raise before the group the ideas produced privately. They were given the time limit of 10 minutes for this condition also. They worked on the same problems assigned to them as individually. In condition G-I, the subjects first worked in a group for 10 minutes and then they were sent separately to write solutions on the same problems. Again they were given 10 minutes. The number of solutions for each problem was counted. Though the quality was not stressed, yet the relevancy of the solutions to problem was checked.



It was found that the subjects produced more ideas in individual condition than in group condition. Similarly, the total number of solutions in I-G condition and G-I conditions were less than individual and group scores. Factorial analyses of variance indicated that the difference in the solutions to the problems in different conditions was not due to chance. The difference was significant as the F value crossed the .05 and .01 limit of significance. Hence, the hypotheses that individual condition of problem solving is not superior to group or mixed conditions of working are rejected here.



On the basis of the findings, it can be concluded that the individual setting is better than group situation for solving problems. In this condition of working, not only the number of ideas increases, the quality of solutions is also at par. Though it has been found in many studies that group participation facilitates the working, yet it was also proved that it was better for only increasing the speed of problem solving. The brain storming or idea producing situations, or to state in a more general terms, the intellectual activity is in loss in the group situation. The feeling of group responsibility inhibits the quality and the quantity of the performance. Mixed conditions of working are also not very fruitful as the numbers of ideas produced in mixed conditions in the present study are less than individual and group condition. Thus, it can be concluded that individual settings can be more fruitful for the students for their studies.