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The effects of functional fixedness on problem solving

1. Introduction

Functional fixedness is when people cannot see the potential use of an object beyond its original purpose. This often prevents them from solving problems because they become too focused on the initial function of an object. Functional fixedness is a cognitive bias that was first identified by German psychologist Karl Duncker in 1945 (Li, 2007). He conducted the classic candle problem to study this phenomenon. In this problem, participants are given a candle, a box of thumbtacks and a book of matches. They are then asked to attach the candle to the wall in such a way that the wax does not drip onto the floor. The participants who could not solve the problem were said to be suffering from functional fixedness.

2. The origins of functional fixedness

The origins of functional fixedness can be traced back to early childhood development. Children learn about the world through their interactions with objects. They learn that certain objects can only be used for specific purposes. For example, a child might learn that a spoon is only for eating and not for playing with. This early learning forms the basis for functional fixedness in later life. Once an individual has learned that an object has a specific function, they are less likely to see it as having any other potential uses.

3. The effects of functional fixedness on problem solving

Functional fixedness often have negative effects on problem solving ability. Individuals who are suffering from this cognitive bias are often unable to see beyond the initial purpose of an object. This can prevent them from finding creative solutions to problems. Functional fixedness can also lead to tunnel vision, where individuals become fixated on one solution and are unable to see other possibilities.

4. How to overcome functional fixedness

There are several ways in which individuals can overcome functional fixedness. One way is to think about the different properties of an object and how they could be used in novel ways. For example, if someone is trying to solve the candle problem, they could think about the fact that the box of thumbtacks can be opened and used as a platform on which to place the candle. Another way to overcome functional fixedness is to ask for help from others who might be able to offer fresh perspectives. Finally, it is also important to encourage children to play with objects and explore their potential uses from an early age. This will help them to develop creative problem-solving skills later in life.

5. Conclusion

In conclusion, functional fixedness is a cognitive bias that can have negative effects on problem solving ability. It is important to find ways to overcome this bias in order to improve creativity and innovation.

FAQ

Functional fixedness is a cognitive bias that occurs when an individual perceives an object only in terms of its usual function and is unable to see the object's potential for other uses.

Functional fixedness can influence problem solving by causing individuals to overlook alternative solutions to a problem that do not involve using the object in its typical manner.

There are some benefits to being functionally fixed, such as increased efficiency in completing tasks that require the use of an object in its typical manner. However, functional fixedness can also lead to difficulties in problem solving when alternate solutions are needed.

One way to overcome functional fixedness is to brainstorm a list of all possible uses for the object before considering how it could be used to solve the problem at hand.

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