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Cognitive Biases

4 Examples of Functional Fixedness

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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.


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.


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.


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
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
Backfire Effect
Base Rate
Circular Reasoning
Cognitive Bias
Cognitive Dissonance
Complexity Bias
Crab Mentality
Creeping Normality
Curse Of Knowledge
Decoy Effect
Exposure Effect
False Analogy
False Hope
Fear Of Youth
Gambler's Fallacy
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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Cognitive Biases

A list of common cognitive biases explained.

Curse Of Knowledge

Why experts have trouble communicating.

Optimism Bias

An overview of optimism bias, including its surprising benefits.

Decoy Effect

A cognitive bias that is well known in marketing circles.

Biases vs Heuristics

The difference between biases and heuristics.

Information Cascade

A definition of information cascade with examples.

Boil The Frog

A definition of boil the frog, with examples.

Anecdotal Evidence

The definition of anecdotal evidence with examples.


The definition of scientism with examples.

Thought Processes

A list of thinking approaches and types.


A few logic terms explained.

Abstract Ideas

A few dangers of being too abstract.

Objective vs Subjective

The difference between objective and subjective.

Intellectual Diversity

A definition of intellectual diversity with examples.

Creative Value

The definition of creative value with examples.

Benefit Of Doubt

The definition of benefit of doubt with examples.


The definition of pessimism with examples.
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