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Functional Fixedness

Page history last edited by Tenica Williams 11 years, 7 months ago

Functional Fixedness




The concept of Functional Fixedness developed during the period of Gestalt Psychology. Functional Fixedness occurs when a person is not able to see innovative ways of using an item or concept. For example, paper clips are not just useful for binding paper together. They may also be used to pick locks or even create jewelry. Objects are not “fixed” in their functions, but people sometimes get stuck in a fixed mindset and have trouble developing innovative ways of using the objects.


Functional Fixedness can hinder one’s ability to solve problems. Solutions to problems are not always clear. It is often necessary to think “outside of the box”. Functional Fixedness prevents people from coming up with new ways of using familiar objects so that they can solve problems that may come up.


Children are not as fixed when it comes to using items in new ways especially those 5 years and younger. Children tend to become more functionally fixed as they age because they are constantly being corrected by adults. For example, kids are taught that the wall is not a canvas for art. They now see the wall as having one function. Research has also shown that people from less technology savvy cultures and study abroad students are less fixed in how they view an item's functions.  


There is no way to completely eliminate Functional Fixedness. However, it can be somewhat combated by practicing creative thinking. Creative thinking allows one to see outside of the categories that they have created. 







Links to Learn More about Functional Fixedness: 


Dan Pink: The Puzzle of Motivation: In this TED talk, Dan Pink explores the relationship between problem solving and motivation, exploring the concept of Functional Fixedness in great detail. 

Definition: This is just a basic definition of Functional Fixedness.

Function and the Origins of the Design Stance: This article discusses how humans designate certain functions to items.

Functional Fixedness, Creativity, and Play: This is just a fun and interactive lecture to help one better understand Functional Fixedness.

Functional Fixedness in a Technologically Sparse Culture: This article provides evidence from a study of Functional Fixedness in teens that are from cultures that lack technology.

Immunity to Functional Fixedness in Young Children: This article studies why young children are less susceptible to Functional Fixedness than adults are.

Living Outside the Box: This research suggests that study abroad students are less fixed in how they view an object's uses.

The Artifact Concept and Inferences about Function:The article goes into detail about the meaning of Functional Fixedness, and the cognitive features are responsible for Functional Fixedness.

You Can Overcome Fixations and Achieve Insight: This article offers advice on how to overcome Functional Fixedness.

Why We Can't See What's Right in Front of Us: This article introduces the "generic parts technique" which is supposed to aid in getting rid of preconceived notions and seeing objects in a new manner.



                              Think Outside The Box!!!



This page was developed by Tenica Williams.

Email me at tenica.l.williams@live.mercer.edu if any copyrighted material is discovered here.


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