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How Game of Thrones Heroes Solve Problems: Climbing Method, Brute Force, and Negative Carrying
How Game of Thrones Heroes Solve Problems: Climbing Method, Brute Force, and Negative Carrying
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An excerpt from Game of Thrones and Psychology with practical tips for achieving your goals.

How Game of Thrones Heroes Solve Problems: Climbing Method, Brute Force, and Negative Carrying
How Game of Thrones Heroes Solve Problems: Climbing Method, Brute Force, and Negative Carrying

Finding the problem

To solve a problem, a person must identify it. While this seems self-evident, failure to solve problems often stems from a failure to detect the problem. The person then needs to determine if the problem has an obvious solution. Finally, the constraints and tools should be identified to develop an effective solution. In order for the problem solver to plan solutions, each of these steps requires close attention not only to the problem, but also to its peculiarities.

Navigating the problem space

Game of Thrones characters: Robb Stark
Game of Thrones characters: Robb Stark

Considering the problem in a framework called the problem space makes it easier to solve. The problem space is limited by the current position on the one hand, the target position on the other, and between them are intermediate subtasks that must be performed in order to best achieve the target state.

Let's say you need to pick up a friend from the doctor's office. The starting position is your friend in the doctor's office, and the target position is the friend sitting in your car. The sub-objective in this example is to comply with traffic rules on the way, as breaking them could prevent you from picking up your friend. A clear understanding of the relevant subtasks speaks for successful executive functioning, because attention is paid not only to the main goal, but also to avoidance of other problems.

During the War of the Five Kings, Robb Stark pays too much attention to making agreements with strong allies, but not enough to preserve these alliances. He quickly breaks his promise to marry Roslyn Frey, which gives Walder Frey an excuse to go over to the Lannister side, treacherously kill Robb and his mother, and destroy the Stark army.

Clarifying the problem

Game of Thrones characters: Robert Baratheon
Game of Thrones characters: Robert Baratheon

Some problems are more specific or easier to solve than others. The simplest solutions are as easy as paving a path from one place to another on the map when there are no obstacles between them. This may not be perceived as a problem at all. Now Robert Baratheon is about to leave King's Landing to appoint Eddard Stark as the right hand of the king. With his retinue, he goes along the Royal Route to Winterfell. In this case, for Robert, a direct route to Winterfell is a well-identified challenge. Its consideration does not require much effort, and the solution is obvious. However, not all problems are like this.

Functional tightness

Game of Thrones characters: Brienne of Tart
Game of Thrones characters: Brienne of Tart

Sometimes a person is faced with a task, the target position of which is quite specific, but the limitations within the space of the problem make the achievement of the goal completely unclear. This state is called functional tightness; it interferes with using a familiar tool in an unfamiliar way. In problem solving research, the tools at your disposal are called operators. A good problem solver understands which operators to use in a given situation and what constraints a particular operator imposes.

A classic example of functional tightness is a task with a box with buttons and a candle. Participants in the experiment were given matches, a box with buttons, and a candle, and the task was to attach the candle to the wall so that it could burn, and then light it. Most people had no idea how to empty the buttons out of the box, attach an empty box to the wall and insert a candle into it. But good fighters know that anything can serve as a weapon - so, in a battle with the Dog, Brienne Tart uses not a sword, but teeth to tear off his ear.

Implementation of solutions

Finding the problem, identifying its nature, and identifying the available operators is just the beginning. The next important step is to design and implement solutions. Some problems have many possible solutions, and some only a few. In addition, the solver has many methods at its disposal, each of which is suitable for a specific situation, and you need to choose the correct one.

Brute force

heroes of "Game of Thrones": Grigor Clegan
heroes of "Game of Thrones": Grigor Clegan

The easiest way to solve problems is the least effective. This is a brute-force or brute-force method. The solver goes through all possible solutions until a suitable one is found. "Brute force" here has nothing to do with physical action (which is usually understood by this expression), but implies a non-stop, uncontrolled search for a solution.

Early research by behavioral theorist Edward Thorndike showed the effectiveness of the brute force method in teaching strategies. He put cats in a box where they could see a bowl of food. To get out, the animal had to perform some action inside the box (for example, press a lever). First, the cats pushed and moved parts of the box at random, going through every movement they could to find a way to get out. Ultimately, they found a solution.

Grigor Clegane, a knight of immense stature known as the Leaping Mountain, follows this approach when he suggests selecting scouts in this way: “A man who sees nothing does not know how to use his eyes. Such eyes must be plucked out and given to another scout; let him know that you think four eyes see better than two. " In the service of the Lannisters, he uses the brute force method more than once. Is his horse misbehaving? Decapitate her and bring in another. This comprehensive approach lacks flexibility, but is effective for simple tasks.

Climber method

Game of Thrones characters: Margaery Tyrell
Game of Thrones characters: Margaery Tyrell

Another way to achieve the target state is to come up with a rough solution and then try to improve it piece by piece. The final, optimal solution is reached when no further improvement is possible. This approach is called the climbing method. The problem solver acts like a climber who tries to climb as high as possible and from each next peak he sees an even higher one, to which he then climbs.

Margaery Tyrell uses this method to achieve the highest position, charming young Baratheons one after another on the way to the Iron Throne. Here, the climbing method can be called bed-to-bed jumping, which results in Margaery's reputation. Ultimately, Cersei takes revenge on "that self-righteous whore from Highgarden" by placing her in the hands of the Holy Host. This shows that using one method to solve all problems works up to a certain point, but becomes ineffective if the enemies are able to predict your actions.

Reverse method

Game of Thrones characters: Ned Stark and Cersei Lannister
Game of Thrones characters: Ned Stark and Cersei Lannister

There are examples of problems that have been solved, and in order to deal with similar problems, the solver must determine which operators were applied and how. This approach is called the reverse method; it is used in mathematics textbooks as an effective way to teach how to solve complex problems. So, those in power in Westeros should apply the opposite method, taking as a model worthy rulers in order to imbue the spirit of nobility and justice for the good of the kingdom.

Ned Stark, unfortunately for himself and his family, cannot cope with the reverse method of problem solving. Although respected as a warrior hero among the great houses, he could not recognize the treachery and conspiracy that enmeshed King's Landing. Ned does not understand that the principles of honor and respect do not apply here, as in Winterfell. In other words, becoming the King's Hand is not enough to earn the loyalty of the rest of the Council. Cunning and ruthlessness are the way to gain their respect, however Ned is unable to adapt before embarking on an investigation into John Arryn's death. Because of what, as a result, he loses his head.

Making a weapon out of the mind: an analysis of ends and means

Game of Thrones characters: Tyrion Lannister
Game of Thrones characters: Tyrion Lannister

Simple solutions like the ones discussed are not always optimal. The best problem solver does not stick to one method, but examines the problem space, identifies the available operators, and makes the most of them. This approach is called end-to-end analysis. Its application requires clarification of the differences between the current and target position and the use of operators associated with these differences. High-class chess players drive the opponent down and checkmate using this method.

Probably the best in Game of Thrones, Tyrion Lannister wields it, over and over again emerging alive from situations where all odds are against him. He uses the climbing method to free himself from the captivity of Lady Lisa Arryn, he uses a brute force to figure out which of the Small Council is spying on him on the orders of Cersei, he, using the reverse method, manifests himself as a worthy hand of the king, he does not bind himself to a common concrete strategy, and chooses the best means to achieve intermediate goals on the way to the most serious - to ensure personal safety and gain influence.

Evaluation of results

The person either solves the problem or fails. If it fails, the solver can try a different solution (provided it survives). However, even if successful, the solver must understand which part of the solution worked and why. Was I smart enough to find a solution? Did you help me? I was just lucky? Learning the answers to these questions helps a person become an expert in problem solving.

Building and modifying circuits

heroes of "Game of Thrones": Arya Stark and Sirio Trout
heroes of "Game of Thrones": Arya Stark and Sirio Trout

Successful problem solvers use executive control to think about results. Reflection helps you understand a problem within larger conceptual structures called schemas. Diagrams are mental representations that classify and organize information in order to predict future actions. For example, the layout of a hammer includes its appearance, how it is used, where it is usually found, and how it relates to other tools.

If the solution fails, the schema should incorporate the information so that the solver can explore the problem space more broadly to develop a new plan. If successful, the updated schema can be extended to other problems.

Thus, evaluating the results turns a poorly identified problem into a well-identified one.

Successful learning begins with practical tasks, the complexity of which increases as the learner's capabilities grow. If the tasks are too easy and there are too many successes, it may seem to a person that he knows everything, although his understanding is still incomplete. If the tasks are too complex, the learner simply cannot solve them. Arya Stark's ability to properly assess her accomplishments is critical to her survival. For example, Arya learns how to wield a wooden sword before taking up a real sword. In addition, her practical lessons are diversified by seemingly unrelated activities such as catching a cat or balancing on one leg.

Practice should also include feedback that clearly identifies both the area of excellence and gaps in knowledge and skills. When Arya is wrong, the fencing teacher points out the mistake and gives her the opportunity to hone her skills as her mental and physical control improves. When she builds her scheme, the teacher turns to indirect help and allows her to plan independent solutions to new problems (not excluding failure), and Arya herself notes that "every failure is a lesson and every lesson makes you better."

Positive carryover

Game of Thrones characters: Arya Stark
Game of Thrones characters: Arya Stark

One way to use information from previous problem-solving experiences involves positive transference, that is, thinking about what information is appropriate for the case and effectively applying solutions already tried and tested to similar new problems. This similarity does not always lie on the surface. The best problem solvers recognize deeper structural analogies.

From the cluttered space of problems, Arya snatches the true essence of the philosophy of the Dance of Water, using elements such as balance, strength, stealth and speed to take on many disguises and get closer to her enemies. Thus, effective problem solvers must think about the results of different situations in order to visualize the structural similarity that unites the independent schemes.

Negative carry

heroes of "Game of Thrones": Daenerys Targaryen
heroes of "Game of Thrones": Daenerys Targaryen

Success without proper evaluation can lead to ineffective planning in new situations through a process called negative transference. If the schema is poorly designed, the person is in the illusion of his competence and is unable to identify gaps in knowledge.

For example, young Daenerys did not have to assess the degree of loyalty of her servants in Dragonstone, for her they were operators in the space of the problem. When Khal Drogo is wounded, Daenerys transfers incomplete knowledge to the situation and persuades the Khal to allow Mirri Maz Duur to heal his wound. Daenerys' knowledge gap is revealed only when it is too late to evaluate the results and form a new plan. Unfortunately, negative transference leads to the death of Drogo.

Speculative models

heroes of "Game of Thrones": Daenerys Targaryen
heroes of "Game of Thrones": Daenerys Targaryen

Another consequence of the ability to assess is the creation of new speculative models, combinations of strategies for solving specific classes of problems. They can develop when a failure forces the solver to come up with a new solution, or when a new situation requires a new type of solution. Anyone who cannot create a new mental model is in potential danger because he is unable to adapt to new situations.

Daenerys takes on the experience of Drogo's death and gains skepticism towards outsiders and former trusted advisors like Jorah Mormont. She also updates her schematics, adopts a new planning approach, restructures problem spaces, and applies different operators to new problems. Unlike the other rulers of Essos, she allows the Unsullied to freely join her, thereby winning the loyalty of the former slaves. Daenerys wins because she doesn't fall prey to fixed mental models.

Game of Thrones and Psychology
Game of Thrones and Psychology

Travis Langley, a graduate psychologist, philosopher and Game of Thrones fanatic, brought together a team of psychologists to talk about the motivations, relationships, pathologies, perversions and trauma of the heroes of the great saga. And at the same time he explained how his favorite TV series trains the brain and stimulates lateral thinking. Read about self-control, different parenting styles, and the conditions for a successful marriage in his book.

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