Psychological phenomena explained: Functional fixation

Function fixation is a phenomenon in which a person's ability to think of a variety of uses for objects is limited based on their previous experiences. This means that when a person encounters an object, they think primarily of the purpose for which it was originally intended and are unable to think of alternative uses or functions. In this blog post, I discuss the causes and effects of functional fixation and show how to overcome it.

What is functional fixation?

Functional fixation is when a person's ability to think creatively about objects is limited because of their previous experiences with them. Someone suffering from functional fixation can only think of the one purpose for which an object was designed and is unable to come up with alternative ideas or uses. Thus, they are "functionally fixated" on the original purpose without considering all the other possibilities for which the object could be used.

This video illustrates the phenomenon:

Causes of function fixation

The main cause of functional fixation is experience: the more often a person interacts with an object, often using it in the same way, the more likely they are to become "fixated" on its original function.

In addition, we often learn new things by drawing on similar experiences from our past; this formative process can limit creativity when it comes to completing a task by seemingly inappropriate means.

Finally, our educational system is also partly responsible for this phenomenon: Many children are taught that there is only one "right" answer to every problem, so they think less creatively about possible solutions outside this framework.

Effects of functional fixation

Functional fixation limits our ability to think outside the box and find creative solutions - something we desperately need if we are to remain competitive in today's innovative world.

It also means that some people miss opportunities that would have been beneficial later, such as figuring out how to coax a new application out of something no one had thought of before.

Ultimately, functional fixation can also cause us to fall into "default" thinking patterns in which we don't look beyond what is expected or accepted - which can prevent us from expanding our knowledge base or pushing ourselves to greater achievements.

How can you overcome functional fixation?

Of course, there are steps you can use to break out of your functional fixation:

1) Practice dealing with unfamiliar objects through activities such as puzzles or games;

2) Research different uses for unfamiliar items on the Internet or in books before using them;

3) Challenge yourself by asking yourself questions like, "What else could I do with this?"

4) get inspired by others' ideas by reading blogs or attending seminars; and

5) keep pushing yourself out of your comfort zone by trying something new every now and then.

If you follow these steps, you should be well on your way to breaking your functional fixation and becoming more creative. And who knows, you may discover other benefits in the steps above.

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