OODA Alpha Part V: Orientation

Orientation directly determines action through implicit guidance and control (Boyd, 1996). While early attempts at describing orientation or implicit cognition were less than scientific (Adler, 1956, Freud, 1959), the components of orientation are now firmly grounded in the scientific literature. Orientation, or implicit thinking,is characterized by a relative lack in controllability, intention, or meta-cognitive awareness, or else by a relative improvement in processing efficiency (Bargh, 1994). Additionally, motivation is qualitatively superior when guided by orientation rather than decision.

The five theoretical components of Orientation in the OODA loop – genetic heritage, cultural traditions, previous experience, new information, and analysis and synthesis – have all been shown to affect human behavior. Genetic heritage drives species-typical adaptations such as language acquisition (Chomsky, 1957, 1965; Pinker, 2003), social behavior (Wilson, 1975; Bjorklund & Kipp, 2001), and epistemological development (Piaget, 1976; Karmiloff-Smith, 1992), while individual differences in genetic heritage appear to matter in linguistic skill (Kovas, et al., 2005; Thomas & Karmiloff-Smith, 2005; Dediu & Ladd, 2007), intelligence (Deary, Spinath, & Bates, 2006), ADD/ADHD (Ding, et al., 2002; Thapar, et al, 2007), shyness (Freedman & Freedman, 1969; Rosenberg & Kagan, 1989; Coplan, Coleman, & Rubin, 1998), political orientation (Alford, Funk, & Hibbing, 2004; Hatemi, et al., 2007). Evidence supporting the influence of cultural differences has been found in mathematics (Saxe, 1981; Andrews, 2007), biology (Medin & Atran, 2004; Atran, Medin, & Ross, 2005) and epistemology (Fu, et al., 2007) while socio-cultural effects on neurological function are being studied (Karmiloff-Smith, Scerif, & Thomas, 2002; Scerif & Karmiloff-Smith, 2005; Karmiloff-Smith, 2007). Likewise, the recognition that prior experience (Skinner, 1958; Vygotsky, 1978) is too widespread to merit discussion. Analysis and synthesis, the consequence of decision on orientation, is addressed in the next section while new information is covered under the discussion on disorientation.


Metacognition, which is central to rationality in decision, is weak to nonexistent for orientation (Schraw & Moshman, 1995; Moshman 2005). Self-monitoring is useful for special education students (Harris, et al., 2002; Zito, et al., 2007) as well as the general student population (Sinatra, 2001). However, individuals have a hard time knowing what they are thinking. Research on orientation, for instance, demonstrates that discrimination can be greater (Baron & Banaji, 2006), lesser (LaPierre, 1934), or more complicated (Durham, Baron, and Banaji, 2006) than might be expected from just verbal self-reports. The lack of introspection on discrimination is a special case on the lack of introspection generally. The inability of decision or System 2 to accurately describe orientation or System 1 is now well established (Wicker, 1969; Nisbett & Wiilson, 1977; Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz, 1998; Nosek, 2007; Nosek, Greenwald, & Banaji, 2007; Nosek & Smyth, 2007).

Motivation leads to better outcomes when guided by orientation than when guided by decisions. When motivation is guided by orientation is is directed at the activity itself, while motivation decided upon is directed via a means-end analysis at some overriding objective (Harlow, 1953; White, 1959; Vansteenkiste, Lens, & Deci, 2006). Motivational orientation is related to better well-being and adjustment (Kasser & Ryan, 1993, 1996; Levesque, et al., 2004) and greater expertise (Koestner, et al., 1984; Vansteenkiste, et al., 2004). While internalizing a proper motivation is possible (Luyten & Luyten, 1981; Vansteenkiste, Lens, & Deci, 2006), numerous studies have found that creating a decision-based orientation destroys or reduces motivational orientation (deCharms, 1968;Vansteenkiste, et al., 2004).


OODA Alpha, a tdaxp series
1. Abstract
2. Dual Processing Systems
3. The OODA Loop
4. Decision
5. Orientation
6. A Theory of Mind
7. Reorientation
8. Disorientation
9. Education
10. Instruction
11. Student Interaction
12. Creativity
13. Conclusion
14. Bibliography

Duncker’s Radiation Problem

Duncker’s radiation problem reads:

Suppose you are a doctor faced with a patient who has a malignant tumour in his stomach.It is impossible to operate on the patient; but unless the tumour is destroyed the patient will die. There is a kind of ray that can be used to destroy the tumour. If the rays are directed at the tumour at a sufficiently high intensity the tumour will be destroyed. Unfortunately, at this intensity the healthy tissue that the rays pass through on the way to the tumour will also be destroyed. At lower intensities the rays are harmless to the healthy tissue but they will not affect the tumour either. What type of procedure might be used to destroy the tumour with the rays, and at the same time avoid destroying the healthy tissue? (Duncker; 1945; Gick & Holyoak, 1980, 1983; Keane, 1985)

One roadblock to successful performance, even with analogical hints, is understanding how radiation works (Helfenstein & Saariluoma, 2006)

Superficial similarity between analogies, while present in more difficult problems (Reed, 1987; Ross, 1987, 1989) is not found in the Duncker radition problem (Holyoak & Koh, 1987). In general, surface similarity does not effect the number of correct answers, it positively impacts the quality of answers (Heydenbluth & Hesse, 1996)

A story that analogously solves the problem brings a 30% success rate, while no clue provides a 10% success rate (Gick & Holyoak, 1980)

(A bibliography is below the fold)


Duncker, K. (1945). On problem solving. Psychological Monogrpahs, 58. Whole no. 270.

Gick, M. & Holyoak, K.J. (1980). Analogical problem solving. Cognitive Psychology, 12, 306-355.

Gick, M. & Holyoak, K.J. (1983). Structure-mapping. A theoretical framework for analogy. Cognitive Psychology, 15, 1-38.

Helfenstein, S. & Saariluoma, P. (2006). Mental contents in transfer. Psychological Research, 70(4), 293-303.

Heydenbluth, C. & Hesse, F.W. (1996). Impact of superficial similarity in the application phase of analogical problem solving. The American Journal of Psychology, 109(1), 37-57.

Holyoak, K. J., & Koh, K. (1987). Surface and structural similarity in analogical
transfer. Memory & Cognition, 15, 332-340.

Keane, M. (1985). On drawing analogies when solving poblems: A theory and test of solution generation in an analogical problem-solving task. British Journal of Psychology, 76, 449-458.

Reed, S. K. (1987). A structure-mapping model for word problems. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 13, 124-139.

Ross, B. H. (1987). This is like that: The use of earlier problems and the separation
of similarity effects. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 13,629-639.

Ross, B. H. (1989). Distinguishing types of superficial similarities: Different effects on the access and use of earlier problems. Journal of Experimental

Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 15, 456-468.