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4 Examples of Functional Fixedness

 , February 10, 2016 updated on October 23, 2017
Functional fixedness is a limit to creativity whereby people can't see beyond the usual functions of something. This results in needless assumptions that may blind individuals and teams to valuable solutions. The following are illustrative examples of functional fixedness.

Objects

Functional fixedness can be demonstrated by giving people a task to complete with a set of objects. The objects are given to participants in a tray. The task is designed such that a solution requires the tray itself. People tend to assume the tray isn't to be used and therefore can't complete the task.

Garbage

Throwing out useful things because they are garbage. For example, a chef throws out a pickle jar when the pickles are gone and then goes out to purchase a similar jar to hold sugar.

User Interfaces

Users develop strong expectations for how user interfaces work such as buttons on an app or a steering wheel in a vehicle. As such, it is a common design principle to design things for intuitive use for reasons such as safety and customer satisfaction.

Experience

Functional fixedness can be used to create entertaining or interesting environments such as games or installation art. For example, it feels strange to walk into a room where there is furniture on the ceiling.
Overview: Functional Fixedness
Type
Definition A limit to creativity whereby people can't see beyond the usual functions of something.
Related Concepts

Cognitive Biases

This is the complete list of articles we have written about cognitive biases.
Ambiguity Effect
Anchoring
Backfire Effect
Base Rate
Biased
Biases
Circular Reasoning
Cognitive Bias
Cognitive Dissonance
Complexity Bias
Crab Mentality
Creeping Normality
Curse Of Knowledge
Decoy Effect
Ethnocentrism
False Analogy
False Hope
Fear Of Youth
Golden Hammer
Halo Effect
Hindsight Bias
Negativity Bias
Optimism Bias
Peak-End Rule
Positive Bias
Sour Grapes
Survivorship Bias
Us vs Them
Victim Mentality
Wishful Thinking
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