Functional Fixedness

Posted by Editor Kristi Heidel

The following contains an excerpt from Tony McCaffrey, Innovation Relies on the Obscure: A Key to Overcoming the Classic Problem of Functional Fixedness, 23(3) Psychological Science 215-218 (March 2012). (View Study)

Sometimes we get stuck in a rut and can’t seem to solve a problem because we are too busy focusing on a specific idea or object. This is known as functional fixedness.

To help break functional fixedness a psychologist from the University of Massachusetts, Tony McCaffrey, developed a Generic-Parts-Technique, in which there are two questions we can ask ourselves:

  1. Can the problem be broken down more?
  2. Does the new, generic description imply a use?

These questions can help break the problem down causing the mind to look at its components, instead of the whole picture.

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